By Alexander Ramirez
WOODLAND, CA – Pao Thao—convicted of murder, torture, a couple counts of kidnapping, and intimidating a witness in 1998—has been in Yolo County Superior Court since March in an effort to have his murder conviction overturned. He’s one of several convicted murderers seeking relief in Yolo County.
Late last week Thao learned, on his fourth review of a PC section 1170.9 petition filed in May, that Judge Peter M. Williams has set a January 2022 court date to hear the resentencing case.
PC § 1170.95, created after SB 1437 was made law in California, allows some people convicted of felony murder to be resentenced after their murder conviction is vacated.
SB 1437 remade the old “felony murder” rule so someone involved in a lesser crime than murder, who was not part of the planning or actual murder, could not be convicted of murder.
Thousands of those incarcerated for murder, like Thao, can file to have their convictions vacated under SB 1437, which took effect in January of 2019 but can be retroactively applied.
After catching the court up on the details of the case, like the status of prima facie talks in the case, Judge Williams affirmed with the court that the next step is for him to read the briefs of both Public Defender Ronald Paul Johnson and District Attorney Melinda Diane Aiello regarding the petition.
Aiello would agree, but in order to save the court some time, she predicts that, after reading the briefs, the court would come to the conclusion that they would need to find a prima facie. This would mean the next step would be an order to show cause (OSC), Judge Williams argued.
Although Judge Williams also argued that he should still read the briefs provided to the court, if the court agrees, he could just move the matters to the “OSC stage.”
Since Aiello affirmed that she would concede to prima facie, this would mean that this case would be able to move on to the OSC phase. However, this also means that a new briefing schedule would have to be made as well.
Aiello’s opening brief is due Nov. 2 and Johnson’s response is to be due on Jan. 25, 2022. Also, since it takes about 30 days for PD Johnson to get Thao out of prison, and since he would like to talk to Thao before the hearing, Judge Williams set up January to also include a hearing/check-in date.