By a MetNews Staff Writer
Div. Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal yesterday denied a petition for a writ of mandate sought by a man who was convicted of committing the murders of two persons when he was age 16 and, having been previously granted a resentencing by the appellate court, now seeks to bar a transfer from the Juvenile Court to the criminal court, which would mean his immediate release.
“This is a unique case,” Presiding Justice Kathleen O’Leary wrote, in an opinion that was not certified for publication, explaining:
“The juvenile court had to determine whether 29-year-old L.R. should be retained in the juvenile court for crimes he committed when he was 16 years old and the jury convicted him of 10 years earlier. The court concluded he should not. In his petition for writ of mandate, L.R. argues the court erred by ordering him transferred to criminal court. We disagree and deny the petition.”
The defendant—identified on seven prior occasions by the Court of Appeal in orders and opinions as Luis Alberto Ramirez—on Aug. 27, 2007, fatally shot two persons in a gang-encounter. He was sentenced in 2011 to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole plus 65 years.
On Aug. 27, 2014, Div. Three, while affirming the conviction, remanded the case to the Orange Superior Court for resentencing.
Meanwhile, Proposition 57 was enacted by voters on Nov. 8, 2016. It bars the filing of charges against minors directly in criminal court requiring, instead, a determination in juvenile court whether to transfer the case.
Under California Welfare & Institutions Code §707(b), 30 enumerated offenses—first in the list being murder—may be tried in criminal court where committed by a person while under the age of 18 and where a judge finds the person unfit for treatment in the juvenile system. Notwithstanding that juvenile court jurisdiction expires where a defendant who committed a murder Div. Three held on May 8, 2019, that Ramirez and his co-defendant were properly sent to juvenile court for a transfer hearing.
Justice Richard M. Aronson explained:
“The district attorney…contends the trial court lacked the authority to transfer the matter to juvenile court because the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to hold the transfer hearing. According to the district attorney, the juvenile court has no jurisdiction over defendants, who were older than 25 years old at the time the trial court ordered the transfer. While the juvenile court has no continuing jurisdiction over defendants, it has jurisdiction to hold a transfer hearing involving defendants.”
Subsequently, Orange Superior Court Judge Lewis W. Clapp ordered that Ramirez be transferred to adult court; had he not done so, the juvenile court, its jurisdiction having lapsed, would have been powerless to resentence. It was the decision to transfer that was dealt with in yesterday’s opinion.
O’Leary pointed out that under §707, five factors must be considered in determining whether to transfer a case to criminal court: “The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor”; “Whether the minor can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction”; “The minor’s previous delinquent history”; “Success of previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the minor”; and “The circumstances and gravity of the offense alleged in the petition to have been committed by the minor.”
She said Clapp found that under the first and fifth factors, a transfer is warranted.
As to criminal sophistication, she wrote:
“His conscious decision to arm himself, participate in a gang confrontation, shoot two people, and try to dispose of the incriminating evidence tended to establish sophisticated thinking.”
Addressing the seriousness of the crime, O’Leary said:
“We recognize a juvenile who commits murder is not prevented from benefitting from the juvenile court’s rehabilitation efforts. However, the court’s conclusion based on the circumstances of these two gang-related murders was not beyond the bounds of reason. Contrary to L.R.’s claim, this was not a garden variety murder. He committed two murders that made him eligible for the death penalty.”
The case is People v. L.R., G059599.
O’Leary provided no explanation as to why she shielded the identity of Ramirez who has been identified by full name in mass-media news reports, in Court of Appeal opinions and orders, and in California Supreme Court orders. Her opinion itself divulges “L.R.”’s surname, containing 11 references to opinions or orders in “People v. Ramirez.”
Copyright 2021, Metropolitan News Company