Monday, March 23, 2020
Court of Appeal:
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Div. Two of the Fourth District Court of Appeal has affirmed an order requiring a man who aided and abetted a murder and a robbery to make restitution to the victims in the amount of $20,000, the full amount stolen, rejecting his protest that he was only given $6,000 of that amount by his confederate, who was the triggerman.
Victim restitution in the amount of the loss is statutorily mandated, Acting Presiding Justice Art McKinster recited. He said:
“Here, the police report showed that the robbery [that] defendant participated in resulted in the taking of about S20,000 in cash and merchandise. The purpose of restitution is to fully reimburse the victim for the economic loss incurred….Thus, the court properly ordered him to pay $20,000 in victim restitution. The amount of cash that defendant personally received as a result of the robbery ($6,000) was not relevant to the amount of victim restitution to be paid.”
The amount of the restitution was set in 2002 when the defendant, Jason Scott Harper, was initially sentenced for crimes he had committed the previous year, at age 16. It was ordered that he be imprisoned for life, without the possibility of parole.
His attorney argued, at the time, that the amount was “almost absurd” given the lack of “chances of him ever paying it.”
U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter of the Central District of California in 2018 granted Harper’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama. It was held there that imposing on a minor a sentence of life-without-parole violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments’ ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The case was remanded to the Riverside Superior Court for resentencing. On May 31, 2019, a term of 25 years to life was imposed.
Harper filed a motion for an order reducing the restitution amount to $6,000, which Judge John D. Molloy denied, with the Court of Appeal affirming Thursday in an unpublished opinion.
McKinster cited the Court of Appeal’s 1992 decision in People v. Zito for the propositions that a “defendant’s inability to pay shall not be a consideration in determining the amount of a restitution order,” that a restitution order “shall be enforceable as if the order were a civil judgment,” and that “a joint and several restitution order is permissible.”
The case is People v. Harper, E073615.
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