A state appeals court panel has ordered a man's conviction to be vacated for the August 2002 slaying of a woman at a La Puente bookkeeping and income tax service she and her brother operated, finding that he was not shown to be a major participant in the crime.
In a ruling this week, the three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with Raymond Salvador Ramirez's claim that a Superior Court judge erred in denying his motion to vacate his conviction stemming from the Aug. 20, 2002, shooting death of Carmen Castro.
Ramirez was convicted along with co-defendants Juan Lucas Soto, Vincent Francisco Lopez and Frank Eddie Quintero. The convictions of all four were initially upheld, but a state appellate court panel ordered the special circumstance finding of murder during a robbery to be stricken last December against Ramirez, who was serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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"As an unarmed lookout with little to no role in the planning of the crime or the use of firearms, and with no direct involvement in the unforeseen shooting, it cannot reasonably be said that petitioner was a major participant," the appellate court panel found in its ruling last year.
A judge subsequently re-sentenced Ramirez to 25-years-to-life in state prison and subsequently denied the defense's motion — which was brought under a change in state law on accomplice liability in murder cases — to vacate Ramirez's murder conviction.
The appellate court panel ordered the lower court to re-sentence the defendant on the remaining charges of second-degree robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery on which he was convicted.
The justices noted in their 14-page ruling that Ramirez has already served nearly 16 years behind bars for murder, and that he would only face a maximum of eight years on the other charges.
"Upon resentencing, defendant must be given credit for the time he has served, which is greater than all the time that could be imposed for his crimes," the appellate court panel ruled.