By Danielle Silva
The Superior Court of San Mateo recently granted an 1170.95 motion for a man who plead no contest to felony murder in 2011 and has been in custody for 8 years.
On Oct. 29, 2008, Neil Prakash Chand, 21, and Jimmy Nabong, 17, tried to rob 21-year-old Shivenesh Reddy. Reddy had planned to use the money to buy marijuana. Prosecutors claim Nabong allegedly shot Reddy when he was inside of the car driven by Chand. The victim’s body was found later in South San Francisco.
Nabong was charged as an adult and convicted of murder after the second day of jury deliberations. Chand had pleaded no contest to felony murder prior to the trial, dismissing a charge of second degree felony robbery. For his plea, Chand received a prison sentence of 25 years to life.
On Feb. 4, 2019, Chand’s attorney, Michael Devoy, filed a 1170.95 petition for resentencing. This petition falls under Senate Bill 1437, the legislation that came into effect earlier this year redefining the felony murder law. Previously, felony murder could apply to any felony where a person was killed. However, SB 1437 changes the law to state that felony murder cannot apply to “a person who is not the actual killer, did not act with the intent to kill, or was not a major participant in the underlying felony who acted with reckless indifference to human life.”
Section 1170.95 specifically requests judges to reconsider sentences for felony murder. This reconsideration can lessen the felony murder sentence or retain it depending on the case.
The District Attorney’s office responded by filing a motion to dismiss on February 15 under the grounds that SB 1437 was unconstitutional. Argument over constitutionality continued into March with a response from Attorney Devoy in favor of SB 1437’s constitutionality and further response from the District Attorney’s office. Another constitutionality-related hearing was held on February 16 with Judge Clifford Cretan.
Chand’s 1170.95 petition hearing was finally held on September 9 with time being waived for the case.
On Nov. 19, 2019, the Californian Fourth District Court of Appeals, Division One published opinions on two San Diego cases finding SB 1437 constitutional. Two days following the ruling, an order was filed for Chand to return to court. This was the same day Senator Nancy Skinner, author of SB 1437, published a press release noting the 4DCA’s rulings.
The first evidentiary hearing happened on December 12 and the second on December 17.
Chand, after serving 8 years in prison, had his 1170.95 petition granted. He is now released on O.R. with a sentencing hearing scheduled for Dec. 19, 2019.