Rainwater Law Group

Effective Criminal Defense

Taylor v. Cate, No. 11-55247 [January 21, 2016]

Taylor v. Cate

En banc decision affirming the denial of a habeas petition seeking to set aside a felony murder conviction predicated on attempted robbery, in a case in which the trial court originally sentenced Taylor to life without parole based on a special-circumstance finding that he was the shooter, but resentenced him to a reduced term, as an aider and abettor, based on a subsequent determination that he was not the shooter. Taylor argued that the conviction should be set aside because the jury’s finding that he was the shooter meant that it had not found him guilty on a theory of aiding and abetting. The Court, on de novo review, as the claim had not previously been adjudicated on the merits in the state court proceedings, found that Taylor’s constitution right to a jury trial was not violated because the jury could have found him guilty as an aider and abettor or as the shooter and was not required to unanimously choose a particular theory. “Thus, the jury was not forced to determine Taylor’s identity as either shooter or lookout until it considered the special circumstances. Although the jury incorrectly determined Taylor’s identity when considering the special circumstances, those findings do not prove it rejected the valid lookout theory when considering Taylor’s guilty for felony murder.”

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