Former Girlfriend of Victim in Murder Case Continues Fight for Freedom Under SB 1437

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By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO – A few days before Thanksgiving, San Francisco defense lawyer Juliana Drous filed new pleadings here asking Sacramento Superior Court to vacate the murder conviction of her client, Nicole Carroll – Drous originally filed the paperwork in early January 2019, just days after a new law went into effect that could free Carroll.

But here in California’s capital city, most things have – or appear to have – at least a little to do with politics.

SB 1437, which became law in January of 2019, restricts who can be charged with felony murder. The driver of a getaway car, for instance, cannot now be charged with murder if an accomplice kills someone, unless the driver was an active participant in the killing, or ordered it or was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life.

In Carroll’s case, she was a participant in an assault of her ex-boyfriend in 2003. But after her accomplices and she ambushed Matthew Seivert in East Sacramento’s Tahoe Park, with the intent to “beat up” Seivert, things went bad – three gunshots took the teen’s life.

According to Drous’ filings, the group was intent only on “beating up the ‘white boy’ to ‘teach him a lesson’ about using racial slurs” against Asians. Carroll had been dating an Asian and Seivert had made, she said, several anti-Asian racial slurs, which she told her new boyfriend, Chan (John) Lam.

“Carroll said she wanted Seivert beaten up because she did not like him,” according to court documents, and the group “intended to approach Seivert from behind, hit him a couple of times and smash his car with the nunchakus. However, killing or shooting Seivert was not explicitly discussed.”

Five people, including Carroll and Lam, were convicted of murder in 2005, and Carroll was convicted because the “killing was a natural and probable consequence of the target crime of assault.”

But under SB 1437’s intent, that’s not enough to convict Carroll of murder now, and because the law is retroactive, it is grounds to have that conviction vacated. Lawyers have been petitioning the courts throughout CA this past year to have client re-sentenced.

Drous, in fact, has asked that the action to vacate be “expedited” and Carroll be re-sentenced and probably released for time served.

The Sacramento District Attorney’s Office vehemently disagrees, noting in a filing opposing Drous’ motion that “Defendant Carroll was the reason that this incident occurred. Defendant expressed her intention to have the victim beaten because she did not like him…Carroll knew that a deadly weapon would likely be brought to the planned altercation

“After the shooting…Carroll’s demeanor and attitude after the shooting was callous. She smiled and said something like ‘oh well, I didn’t like him anyways.’ Defendant Carroll is responsible for this murder under a theory of implied malice. She could be convicted today under that theory,” argued the DA.

But Drous’ pleading noted that “It is certain that Ms. Carroll could not be convicted of first or second
degree murder following the amendment of Penal Code sections 188 and 189 because the assault on Mr. Seivert is not a listed predicate offense. Ms. Carroll’s eligibility for relief under the new Penal Code statutes is therefore clear.”

The Sacramento DA also has written that SB 1437 is unconstitutional because “(1) the statute improperly amends Propositions 7; (2) the statute improperly amends Proposition 115; (3) the statute violates Proposition 9; and (4) the statute violates the separation of powers doctrine.”

However, in her filing in late November, Drous pointed out that earlier in the month “in the first published appellate court opinions concerning the constitutionality of SB 1437, the Fourth District Court of Appeal rejected each of the arguments the district attorney has made in Ms. Carroll’s case.”

Carroll is now waiting for a new court date – probably in early 2020 – to determine if her arguments, through attorney Drous, will get her murder sentence vacated.

But there is an interesting twist. A political one.

The sentence of Hung Ly, the shooter, was commuted this year and he now can be paroled as early as 2021. Previously he faced life in prison without possibility of parole.

And, Chan “John” Lam, who admitted he planned the attack on Seivert to impress his girlfriend – Carroll – has had his sentence commuted, while Carroll struggles to gain her freedom.

Lam’s commutation has a bit of political tarnish on it because his brother-in-law is former Assembly Speaker and Democrat Anthony Rendon, who married Lam’s sister Annie in 2014.

Last year, Rendon says he handed a packet of information to then-Gov. Brown and Democrat about his brother-in-law, Lam, and Brown commuted Lam’s sentence.

Lam, to his credit, had an impressive stint in his 16 years in prison, collecting high school and college degrees, and never getting in trouble.

But those involved, Lam and his sister, and Rendon haven’t responded to suggestions Lam got out early in part because of his political connections, or because he earned it and California’s mass incarceration age is coming to an end.


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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6 thoughts on “Former Girlfriend of Victim in Murder Case Continues Fight for Freedom Under SB 1437”

  1. Bill Marshall

    A man is dead… w/o possibility of commuting that.

    His former girlfriend goaded her new boyfriend into an ambush, “to beat him up”… leading a conspiracy to commit assault?   Nan-chucks… think those are considered to be deadly weapons… Assault with a deadly weapon?

    Ly obviously brought something to the ‘game’, beyond nan-chucks.  And pulled the trigger, invoking the “death penalty” w/o process.  Sentence commuted.

    Lam was part of the conspiracy, and appears to have organized the others (see second paragraph).  Sentence commuted.  With the sister/Rendon thing going on…

    A man is dead… apparently for uttering racial slurs, according to Carroll (any corroboration?).

    Justice?  Something(s) is rotten in Denmark, and am not particularly sympathetic towards Carroll… who appears to have instigated the whole thing.  But, she will likely prevail.

    A person is dead.

    Perhaps the family of the victim can file a civil case, citing hate crimes, and civil rights violations… I suspect they will not, but if they do, I hope they succeed…

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Absolutely – a person is dead in an action that occurred 16 years ago. The question now is what the culpability of the woman under the letter of the new law passed last year. She didn’t kill him. The question for the court will be whether she qualifies for relief under 1437.

      1. Bill Marshall

        what the culpability of the woman under the letter of the new law passed last year. She didn’t kill him.

        Yes… technicalities of laws… I seem to recall that you support justice, over technicalities.  In many cases you have highlighted over the years, I agree.

        But this is a weird “poster child” in favor of the new law.  The law I agree with… the likely application, not convinced in this example.

        Like I said, earlier, she will likely get a “pass”… despite of all the elements she was uniquely responsible for… or, perhaps you believe she should have never been charged or convicted of any crime?

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Fair enough. What makes this case interesting is it really gets into the gray area that will define how far the law goes. A key question is whether it is foreseeable that she goes from a fistfight to shots being fired. Since most of these have focused on constitutionality this one gets into application.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Another way of wording it… had she been charged with conspiracy to have others commit assault with deadly weapons (not murder), resulting in death, and convicted, what would her likely sentence have been?  Am guessing well over 16 years… but not my area of expertise…

        3. Bill Marshall

          What makes this case interesting is it really gets into the gray area that will define how far the law goes. A key question is whether it is foreseeable that she goes from a fistfight to shots being fired.

          The “boys” brought nunchucks into the game… intentionally… obviously at least one brought a gun.

          Carroll had been dating an Asian and Seivert had made, she said, several anti-Asian racial slurs, which she told her new boyfriend, Chan (John) Lam.

          Her word.  Article doesn’t indicate anyone but her ‘heard’ the slurs… no evidence that she even did.  Except, ‘her word’.

          A key question is whether it is foreseeable that she goes from a fistfight to shots being fired.

          Well, nothing in the article indicates she was present or actively participated.

          As there is no evidence that Adolph Hitler was present or actively participated in the deaths in Kristalnacht or subsequent events.

          However, killing or shooting Seivert was not explicitly discussed.”

          Probably a lot of the killings and lynchings that occurred in the south were not “explicitly discussed”… probably discussed as ‘teaching them a lesson’.  A guy says, at a KKK meeting, that a black dude kissed his daughter, or “dissed her”, and asks the group to ‘teach him a lesson’.  Whatever.  That type of thing happened… young men died.

          I believe she’ll be given an expedited ‘pass’ and get the ‘time served’ thing.

          A man is dead, and you find the case “interesting”… I find it “troubling”.  A man is dead, for what one person says, making “racial slurs”.

          I really hope the family goes after the participants for civil rights violations, wrongful death, etc. violations.

           

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