By Alexandra Cline
SAN FRANCISCO- On Feb. 21, 2020, at 850 Bryant St. in Department 25, a hearing was held for the resentencing of Wallace Ferguson, who was previously convicted of a felony murder in 1979.
Judge Brendan Conroy reviewed evidence of the case, and came to the conclusion that Ferguson did not act with reckless indifference to human life during a prior robbery. Ferguson and his unidentified accomplice, referred to as his confederate and who has never been found, entered a liquor store armed with a gun and a machete. During the robbery, Gilbert Fong, owner of the family establishment, was shot and killed behind the register.
Ferguson’s confederate fired the gun, and Ferguson was 50 to 80 feet away from the fatal shot. While murder was foreseeable, evidence showed that it was impossible for Ferguson to prevent it because of the short duration of the incident and his distance from it. Judge Conroy also noted that Ferguson did not assume or intend any murder to occur.
After Fong was shot, his son allegedly approached from the back with a knife and nunchucks. The only physical harm that Ferguson may have caused were a few scratches and a cheek injury to Hong’s wife. Ferguson was unaware that the store was a family business, and didn’t know that the man was killed by the gunshot. When Ferguson had the opportunity to cause harm while threatened with a knife, he put his weapon away and declined to kill, acting in a non-lethal fashion.
Ferguson and his confederate worked to minimize the amount of people present in the store before the robbery. Judge Conroy noted that Ferguson was just as surprised by the shot as the family was. The sons chased Ferguson and he led police back to the store.
In 1979, the maximum sentence for aggravated robbery was five years, which Ferguson has served, making him eligible for immediate parole. Conflict Attorney Matthew Siroka asked Judge Conroy to sign an Order of Release document to ensure that Ferguson would be released, which will take a week to process.
The victim’s family was in the courtroom and the Assistant District Attorney announced to the court that they had sent letters to the parole board. They declined to address the court after the sentence. Judge Conroy granted Ferguson’s petition for relief and he will be released on parole from prison in Solano County.
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