Angelique Nash, convicted of murdering an 81-year-old east Bakersfield woman in 2010 when she was 17, may soon be eligible for release following a state appellate court ruling on Monday that could cut her prison sentence by 18 years.
"I fully believe she is innocent. I do not believe this conviction was ever warranted," said Michelle Peterson, the appellate attorney for Nash.
Prosecutors said Nash was a lookout while her younger sister, Katila Nash, and another teen, David Deshawn Moses, went into Session's home on Camino Sierra, believing it was empty and intending to burglarize it. But the pair unexpectedly found Session home, and Moses beat her because they didn't want to leave a witness, prosecutors said.
All three were eventually found guilty of Session's murder, though Angelique Nash's trials twice ended in a mistrial before a conviction in 2013. She was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Katila Nash, who was 15 when the Session murder happened, was also sentenced to 25 years to life but was released early from prison in December under a similar situation resulting from changes in youth prosecution laws.
Though she never went into Session's home, Angelique Nash was found liable for Session's murder under the felony murder doctrine, which allowed anyone involved in a crime that causes a death to be held responsible.
In 2015, Angelique Nash won an appeal that threw out the special circumstances that led to her first-degree murder conviction because the evidence didn't show she was a major participant in the burglary. However, she was not eligible for resentencing.
But a new state law, SB 1437, which took effect in 2019, allowed those previously convicted under the felony murder doctrine to petition for resentencing.
Last year, Angelique Nash filed another appeal for reconsideration under the new law but a Kern County Superior Court judge ultimately ruled SB 1437 was unconstitutional.
That decision was reversed Monday by the Court of Appeals, Fifth Appellate District, in a 2-1 opinion that cited numerous other recent appellate decisions that found SB 1437 constitutional.
"There’s no evidence to support murder anymore and what’s left is a burglary charge," said Peterson, Nash's appellate attorney. Since Nash had already served more than what she would be sentenced to for that burglary, she is likely to be released. However, the Kern County District Attorney's office has the option to request a rehearing or appeal to the California Supreme Court.
The Kern County District Attorney's Office issued a statement saying that SB 1437 was the state legislature's way of amending the law of murder and undoing decades of voter-approved propositions that fought for just sentencing and victim’s rights, including Proposition 7, that specifically mandated an increased punishment for murder.
"Under the law as applied today, these co-participants to murder and inherently dangerous crimes are granted the right to have their justly obtained murder convictions wiped away and to be sentenced anew as if the murder simply did not happen," said District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer in the statement.