By Savannah Dewberry
OAKLAND, CA – Defendant Gary Daniels was only 17 years old when he was convicted of felony murder, and nearly 40 years later that conviction was vacated here in Alameda County Superior Court this past week.
Daniels was previously convicted of a robbery turned murder back in 1983, when his partner in that crime fatally shot the victim.
Daniels and his attorney Anne Beles petitioned the courts to have his sentenced reduced from felony murder and robbery, to just robbery, under a change in state law under Senate Bill 1437.
On Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Erin Loback conceded to that request.
“I don’t think the people can meet the burden here that he knowingly created a grave risk of death beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Loback.
Loback conceded that there was no proof Daniels had any knowledge of or supplied the gun used by his partner that night, and that the sentencing transcript from 1983 showed that Daniels had played a lesser role during the incident.
“There was proof that Mr. Daniels had gone through the pockets of the victim, which is disgracefully indifferent to human life,” said Loback. “But the legal standard I need to prove is reckless indifference to human life.”
Judge Morris Jacobson vacated the murder conviction, and changed Daniels’ 25 to life sentencing for murder to a four year robbery sentencing, with full credit for time served.
After the sentencing Daniels, who was streaming remotely via Zoom, asked if he could also get the robbery expunged from his record.
Judge Jacobson told him he would have to speak with his lawyer, then laughed and asked: “Aren’t you at least happy you got rid of a murder conviction?”
Daniels also laughed and replied: “Oh most definitely.”
SB 1437 became law several years ago and allows people convicted of murder, but didn’t play a key role in that murder, to be resentenced to a lesser crime.
To be eligible, these convicted – there are thousands in CA prisons – must show they are not the actual killer or did not have the intent to kill, aid, abet, counsel, command, assisted or was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life.
This bill provides a means of vacating the conviction and resentencing a defendant, as was done in Daniels’ case when the murder conviction was vacated and he was convicted only of the robbery.