Articles Tagged with murder

Last year, San Diego had the lowest violent crime rates in four decades. According to a study conducted by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), however, homicides were up. This violent crime remained steady from 2017 to 2018 and is on-trend with the rest of the country.

In San Diego County alone, there were 87 homicides in 2018, seven more than in 2017. With the rate of homicide remaining steady in San Diego, there are many reasons or motives as to why homicides are happening. Today, we will explore those reasons, but first we need to see what California law says about homicide.

Homicide Defined in California

The California Penal Code Chapter 1 discusses homicide. CA Penal Code 187 defines murder as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. A homicide includes murder – the most aggravated type of homicide. Malice aforethought means the act of killing was intentional.

Motive Matters in Homicide Cases

While the act of killing must be intentional for homicide, motive typically explains why homicide was committed. Motive is not the same as intent but it matters in homicide cases such as in the example below:

An article in the Morning Call reports that a hearing in San Diego cop-killing death penalty case is set to start on Monday, June 24, 2019. The case involves a man being charged with murder with a special-circumstance allegation of killing a peace officer, attempted murder, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The prosecutor will begin presenting evidence that the man performed the act of shooting. The defense is expected to argue that the evidence falls short of proving the man pulled the trigger that night. The man could face the death penalty if he is convicted of murdering a police officer.

Sometimes it can be difficult to prove motive and intent. This is why in violent crime cases, the parties’ arguments include reasons why the crime was committed (motive) and also seek to prove whether the crime was meant to be committed (intent). 

Common Homicide Motives Revealed

SANDAG reports that in 2018, motive could be determined for 64 of 87 of the homicides by the time of publishing their May 2019 report. Below are common motives for homicide, according to SANDAG’s report:

  • Argument (45%)
  • Domestic Violence (16%)
  • Gang-Related (13%)
  • Robbery (6%)
  • Drugs (6%)

The other 14% included one each related to child abuse, financial gain, alcohol, and four that were not specified. 

Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you or someone you know in the San Diego or Southern California area is facing homicide and murder charges, contact David Boertje, a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer. Mr. Boertje is an experienced murder and criminal defense attorney and has been practicing criminal defense in San Diego County since 2003. He has successfully handled hundreds of criminal cases. Continue reading

The California legislature has been working furiously to pass many laws that affect all aspects of California life. Many changes were implemented that affect the criminal law and criminal justice system. One key change that has occurred affects accomplice liability or California’s aider and abettor laws with respect to felony murder. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that limits who can be prosecuted for felony murder to those who commit or intend to commit a killing.

For a brief overview of California’s accomplice liability laws, click here.

California’s Felony Murder Rule

Previously, California’s felony murder rule allowed accomplices to be convicted of first-degree murder if a victim died during the commission of a felony even if the accomplice did not intend to kill, or did not know a homicide took place.

The underlying felonies are arson, rape and other sexual crimes, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, and homicide committed by intentionally firing a gun from a motor vehicle at a person outside of the motor vehicle with the intention to cause death.

Returning to our prior example, if Mateo had shot and killed a clerk in the jewelry store while robbing it, Logan and Nathan would also have been charged with felony murder under the old felony murder rule.

What is SB-1437?

SB-1437 prohibits a participant in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of one of the specified first degree murder felonies in which a death occurs from being liable for murder, unless the person was the actual killer or the person was not the actual killer but, with the intent to kill, aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced, solicited, requested, or assisted the actual killer, or the person was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life, unless the victim was a peace officer who was killed in the course of performing his or her duties, and the defendant knew or should reasonably have known the victim was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties.

How Does SB-1437 Affect My Case?

Anyone charged with felony murder after September 30, 2018 who was also an accomplice that did not actually kill the victim or intended to kill the victim could potentially mean less time in prison if convicted after a jury trial or plea.

If the jewelry heist occurred after September 30, 2018, Logan and Nathan would not be convicted of felony murder because they did not kill the victim nor knew that Mateo was going to kill the victim. Logan and Nathan are still guilty of robbery because they were active participants in the heist.

Check back next week to find out how SB-147 affects individuals already convicted and serving time for felony murder as an accomplice.

Charged Under California’s Felony Murder Statute?

Under California law, if you aid and abet a person who actually committed a crime, you could face the same exact penalties, meaning prison sentence. Aiding and abetting is not a crime in itself, instead it imposes criminal liability on the action of helpers. If you help someone commit a crime you will be charged with the same crime as the person who actually committed the crime. Contact the San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss your defense and mitigating circumstances. Continue reading

It is reported that California is easing back into executions for convicted criminals on death row, after not having executed anyone in over a decade. California has a sordid history with the death penalty. The process is extremely delayed, with inmates waiting on death row for decades before dying of natural causes instead of being executed. The state has held no executions since 2006, and only 13 since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978. However, the list of death row inmates is twice as many as any other states, up to 749.

California voters voted for Proposition 66 last November, which would keep the death penalty intact and also reform the state’s capital punishment system by speeding up executions. In 2012, voters also rejected Proposition 34 and Proposition 62 in 2016, which would have permanently repealed the state’s death penalty. Voters in a few Southern California counties are also electing district attorneys who put more people on death row. The people of California have definitely spoken: They want to speed up death row, not eliminate it, despite the data that shows it is racially discriminatory. However, it would take an execution a day, every day, for the next two years in order to empty the state’s death row backlog.

Crimes Eligible for Capital Punishment in California

There are several statutes that touch on capital punishment in the California Penal Code. CA Penal Code § 187 addresses “special circumstances murder” which includes:

  • More than one murder conviction;
  • Murder by bomb or poison;
  • Murder of a cop;
  • Murder involving torture;
  • Murder involving gang activity; and
  • Murder involving another serious felony (ie. rape).

California law also provides for the death penalty if you are convicted of:

  • Treason against the state;
  • Perjury causing the execution of another innocent person;
  • Intentionally interfering with preparations of war.

Lastly, CA Penal Code § 190.3 sets out a list of aggravating factors that allow a jury to determine whether a defendant should get the death penalty. For example, juries may consider the circumstances of a crime, such as if the acts were particularly egregious. They can also consider other past violent criminal activity that is not connected with the crime at hand (ie. domestic violence).     Continue reading

Early this New year, Governor Jerry Brown has once again denied parole to a former gang member who was convicted of fatally shooting a San Diego police officer in 1978. Jesus Salvador Cecena, 54, was only 17 when he was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting Officer Archie Buggs four times at a traffic stop, in the Skyline neighborhood. This marks the second year in a row the governor reversed the Board’s decision to recommend Cecena for parole. A two-member panel had announced its decision during an August 2015 hearing, citing that he had met the standards under a new law meant to assist prisoners serving long sentences for crimes committed as juveniles. The local police department there obviously launched a campaign against this decision to allow Cecena for parole.

While Brown acknowledged Cecena’s young age at the time, the Governor said in his statement he still believes Cecena would be a threat to society if he were to be released from prison. He claims that Cecena still has not given a credible explanation for his actions. At the sentencing  in the late 1970’s a judge noted the evidence indicated the shooting was calculated and deliberate.  Cecena was sentenced to life in prison and has been locked up since 1979.

The new law referred to be the parole board says the parole board must give “great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles” and also consider the prisoner’s “maturity and rehabilitation in prison.” Cecena’s prison record indicates he has disavowed association with prison gangs and helps mentor younger prisoners.

Last week, four students were arrested after police discovered a “detailed” plan to “shoot and kill as many people as possible” at Summerville High School in Tuolumne, California. Other students at the school heard the suspects discussing the shooting last week, so they told school staff, who then contacted the sheriff’s office. According to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s office, the plan was so detailed that it included the names of the would-be victims. The four suspects were in the process of securing weapons. The suspects have not been identified since they are minors. Those four students had a court hearing Oct. 13th to determine whether they will be released from custody. They will be getting mental health evaluations.

Criminal Conspiracy (CA Penal Code 182)

Criminal conspiracy exists when two or more people agree to commit almost any unlawful act and then take some action toward its completion. The action taken does not need to be a crime in itself, but must indicate that those involved in the conspiracy knew of the plan and intended to break the law.

CA Penal Code 182 defines criminal conspiracy as taking place when:  

  • You agree with one or more other people to commit a crime at some time in the future, and
  • One of them commits an overt act in furtherance of that agreement.  

In this instance, prosecutors would have a good case for conspiracy because the four students allegedly plotted to plan a school shooting and had already commenced the ‘overt act’ of securing guns.

Conspiracy to Commit Murder (CA Penal Code 189)

The type of conspiracy you are convicted of will determine your punishment. Some conspiracies are wobblers – they can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. A conspiracy to commit murder has all the same elements as conspiracy, expect one possesses the specific intent to kill another person unlawfully and commits an act in furtherance of that act. If convicted, you will face punishment that is equivalent to first-degree murder. It is punishable by death or 25 years to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Withdrawal from the Conspiracy

One may withdraw from his or her role in a conspiracy before someone in the group takes an overt act to further the crime in order to be absolved of criminal liability. If you wait until after someone commits an overt act to affirm your withdrawal, you will still be charged with the conspiracy but will not be held liable for any crimes that are committed after you communicated your withdrawal. Continue reading