Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, February 13, 2003


Page 3


Court of Appeal Upholds Life Sentence in Shooting of Unarmed Teenagers


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Court of Appeal for this district has affirmed a sentence of 79 years to life in prison for a gang member convicted of shooting two unarmed men associated with a rival gang.

Div. Five Tuesday affirmed the sentence imposed on Joseph Andre Godino, a member of the Choppers 12 gang, for shooting the pair as they ran away from him in different directions. The victims were affiliated with the Lomas gang, according to the testimony.

Godino was acquitted on charges of attempted murder, convicted of two counts of assault with a firearm and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph De Vanon calculated the sentence as 47 years to life for one assault and 32 years to life for the other.

The minimum term on the first count consisted of 25 years under the Three Strikes Law, three years for inflicting great bodily injury, four years for using a handgun, 10 years for committing the crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang, and five years for having been previously convicted of a serious or violent felony.

On the second term, Godino was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years under the Three Strikes Law, three years for inflicting great bodily injury, and four years for using a handgun.

Other enhancements that would have made the sentence even longer were stricken in furtherance of justice, leaving Godino eligible for a parole hearing sometime in the middle of this century.

Justice Richard Mosk, in an unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeal, rejected the contention that the sentence constituted cruel and/or unusual punishment. The sentence was not, Mosk said, “so disproportionate to the crime for which it is inflicted that it shocks the conscience and offends fundamental notions of human dignity.” 

The circumstances of the crime, taken into consideration along with the defendant’s age and past record, support the harsh sentence, Mosk said.

He reasoned:

“Here, the 31-year-old defendant, a member of the Choppers 12 gang who was walking in Lomas gang territory, shot two unarmed teenagers who were running away from him.  Defendant had an adult criminal history dating back to 1988, when he was 18 years old.  Although his early convictions were misdemeanors, primarily related to drug use and graffiti, his criminal history shows a pattern of escalating seriousness and violence.  In late 1990, defendant was convicted of a felony, grand theft of a vehicle, and was given probation.  A year later, his probation was revoked when he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance, and he was sentenced to two years in prison.  He was released on parole in May 1992, after serving nine months of his sentence, and within six months he was arrested and then convicted of two counts of robbery, one of which was armed robbery.  He was released on parole in February 1997, and violated parole six times during the next four years.”

Godino was represented on appeal by court-appointed attorney Valerie G. Wass. Deputy Attorney General Karen Bissonnette represented the prosecution.

The case is People v. Godino, B158034.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company