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First Inmate Released Under New Felony Murder Rule

February 4, 2019

Murder sentence vacated for San Quentin inmate

First Inmate Released Under New Felony Murder Rule

In 2018, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 1437, a law that significantly changed the felony murder rule in California. Shortly after it was passed, Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law. Now, the man who inspired the law has been released from prison.

Under the felony murder rule, if you committed certain California felonies and someone died during the commission of the crime, you could be charged with murder — even if the death was accidental. SB 1437 changed that rule, so that only a person who killed someone as part of the crime or assisted in the killing could be charged with murder. If a person simply participated in the underlying crime, such as robbery, but took no part in the killing itself, then he or she cannot be charged with felony murder. According to an Orange County criminal defense lawyer, SB 1437 also provides a mechanism by which those convicted under the felony murder rule can have their convictions vacated or be resentenced. SB 1437 went into effect on January 1, 2019.

In 2003, Adnan Khan was convicted of felony murder for helping to plan and execute a robbery in Antioch, California. During the robbery, an accomplice fatally stabbed a marijuana dealer. Khan testified that he did not know that a weapon would be used during the crime. He was sentenced to a term of 25 years to life in prison.

While incarcerated, Mr. Khan produced a media project about men at San Quentin called FirstWatch. In December 2018, Governor Brown commuted his sentence to 15 years to life in prison. On January 18, 2019, a Contra Costa County judge overturned his felony murder conviction and resentenced Mr. Khan on his robbery conviction. He was then released from prison after having served 15 years.

With the change to California’s felony murder rule, thousands of inmates throughout California may now be eligible to be released from prison. Mr. Khan is the first person to gain freedom based on the application of this new law. With the assistance of an experienced Orange County criminal defense lawyer, other Californians sentenced under the previous felony murder rule may also be eligible to be resentenced or have their prior convictions vacated.

If you have been charged with a crime, particularly one that involves the death of another person, it is critical that you retain a skilled Orange County criminal defense lawyer to represent you. Although the felony murder rule has changed, there is still the possibility that an aggressive prosecutor could charge an accomplice in a felony with murder, alleging that he or she assisted with the killing in some way. A tenacious attorney can fight back against these charges, developing strong factual and legal defenses to the charges.

The Chambers Law Firm is dedicated to helping Californians who have been charged with a range of criminal offenses. If you need assistance, contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced Orange County criminal defense lawyer.

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