Local Judge Rules State Law Unconstitutional

Monday July 8, 2019

(Judge Kevin DeNoce)

      A Ventura County judge has ruled that a new state law that redefines first-degree murder and limits the felony-murder rule for accomplices is unconstitutional.

    Senate Bill 1437 was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2018. 

   Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kevin DeNoce ruled Friday that 1437 unconstitutional because it usurped the people's power of initiative by improperly amending two voter-approved initiatives, violated the Separation of Powers by usurping the Governor's exclusive clemency power, and violates the rights of crime victims to finality of judgement.

   His ruling came when he denied a petition of an Oxnard woman convicted of first-degree murder under the felony-murder rule for her role in the 2008 murder and robbery of businessman Gurmohinder Singh outside an Oxnard bank.

  38-year-old Maria Lisette Bucio did not pull the trigger but she was convicted of murder for being involved in the planning and execution of the robbery.

   Under 1437, she petitioned to have her murder conviction vacated.

   The Ventura County DA's Office challenged her petition and argued that 1437 was unconstitutional and Judge DeNoce agreed and dismissed her petition.

   Other judges, both locally and around the rest of the state, have ruled both ways on 1437 and so this is likely just one of the many first steps towards what will be a showdown over 1437 ultimately at the California Supreme Court.