People v. Sifuentes

Filed 9/12/22 (see concurring opinion) CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION FOUR THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, A162225 v. MIGUEL GALINDO SIFUENTES, (Alameda County Super. Ct. No. H27160B) Defendant and Appellant. In 2003, a jury convicted petitioner Miguel Galindo Sifuentes of first degree murder under a felony-murder theory after petitioner’s co-felon killed Deputy Sheriff John Monego during a robbery of an Outback Steakhouse restaurant. The jury found not true the felony-murder special-circumstance allegations against petitioner (Penal Code 1, § 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(A), (G)). In 2019, after the Legislature amended the felony-murder law, petitioner filed a petition for resentencing under former section 1170.95 2, and the trial court issued an order to show cause. (Former § 1170.95, subd. (c).) The parties agreed petitioner could not be convicted of felony murder under current section 189, subdivision (e). The question before the trial court was whether the peace officer exception in section 189, subdivision (f) applied. All further statutory references are to the Penal Code unless 1 otherwise stated. 2Section 1170.95 (former section 1170.95) has been amended and renumbered as section 1172.6. (Stats. 2022, ch. 58, § 10, eff. June 30, 2022; see also Stats. 2021, ch. 551, § 2, eff. Jan. 1, 2022.) 1 The trial court found that it did and denied the petition because the People had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Monego was a peace officer who was killed while in the course of his duties, and petitioner knew or reasonably should have known that Monego, the victim, was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties. (§ 189, subd. (f).) On appeal, petitioner contends that the trial court erred as follows: (1) the court used the wrong legal standard to assess whether he knew or reasonably should have known that Monego was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties; (2) substantial evidence does not support the court’s finding that petitioner had the requisite knowledge; (3) the jury’s not true findings on the felony-murder special-circumstance allegations required the court to grant the petition after petitioner established a prima facie case, regardless of section 189, subdivision (f); and (4) the court prejudicially erred by admitting victim impact testimony before ruling on his petition. Finding no error, we affirm. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND On December 11, 1998, at about 10:15 p.m., Jeffrey DeRespini was working as a security guard at the Monarch Hotel, which was located adjacent to the Outback Steakhouse restaurant. The two businesses shared a parking lot. Two guests approached DeRespini and told him they had seen a suspicious vehicle in the parking area in the back of the hotel. The car was a newer white vehicle with no front license plate, but they could see the word “Livermore” where the license plate should have been. When they came into the parking lot and their headlights shined on the car, they saw the occupants bend down and act suspiciously. One guest showed …

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