Taylor v. Beard

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 01-21-2016
  • Case #: 11-55247
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Clifton for the Court; Chief Judge Thomas and Circuit Judges O’Scannlain, Silverman, McKeown, Fletcher, Gould, Tallman, Bybee, Christen, and Owens
  • Full Text Opinion

A felony murder conviction may be upheld even when there is evidence proving the individual did not commit the crime actually convicted of, if the prosecutor presented multiple theories of guilt from which a jury determination could lead to the same conviction based on a different charge.

Ronald Taylor was convicted of felony murder, as the shooter, during a robbery. Following the conviction, new evidence persuaded the State that Taylor’s cousin, Hugh Hayes, Jr., was the actual shooter. The State then supported Taylor’s re-sentencing to reduce Taylor’s sentence to the sentence he would have received as an aider and abettor. Taylor was re-sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Taylor filed a writ of habeas corpus to get his conviction set aside, arguing that the jury’s finding that he was the shooter meant it had not found him guilty of felony murder on a theory of aiding and abetting, which would have required an additional specific intent finding. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of Taylor’s habeas corpus petition. The en banc court held that since the prosecutor had argued, and a jury had considered, evidence supporting two different theories of Taylor’s guilt — that Taylor was guilty of felony murder under an aiding and abetting theory, as well as under the theory that he was the shooter — the jury was not required to unanimously choose one theory to convict. The Court found that the jury was given adequate evidence to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that all elements of the felony murder aiding and abetting conviction were met. Therefore, the Court held Taylor had not established that his Sixth Amendment or due process rights were violated. The Court held that since Taylor’s evidence showing he was not the shooter did not establish his innocence as to aiding and abetting, he was not entitled to habeas relief for his felony murder conviction. AFFIRMED.

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