Four Lake County residents have been charged with murder (CA Penal Code 187) even though they were not involved in the victim's death when she died in a car crash. According to the police, the actions of the four defendants led to the death of Gabriel Rivas Garcia, 26, of Clearlake. She is said to have died as a result of a head-on collision with a sheriff's deputy who was responding to a home-invasion robbery (CA Penal Code 211) , allegedly carried out by the four defendants.
A grand jury handed down indictments last week under the felony murder rule , which allows defendants to be convicted of murder if a murder occurs in connection with the commission of some felony offense—even if the defendants did not intend to kill the victim. In previous cases, the law was used to charge armed robbers with the deaths of their accomplices who are gunned down by victims or the police.
The incident began early on Oct.3rd when sheriff's deputies responded to a report of a home-invasion robbery (CA Penal Code 211) at a home that had earlier been the setting of a police drug bust. It was reported that four people had beaten, robbed, and shot the victims before escaping in a brown pickup truck.
Deputies spotted the pickup and followed them, which resulted in the arrest of two of the alleged robbers. The other two were arrested in the following days. The case took a turn for the worse when Lake County Deputy Scott Lewis collided head-on with Garcia as he was pursuing the alleged robbers. The collision occurred eight miles from where the pursuit had started. The defendants in this case are Clearlake residents Robert Conaster, 38, Gilbert Moncivaiz, 29, Angelita Jeanette Raffa, 28, and 20-year-old Lauren Faumuina.
The prosecution has argued that if the robbery never occurred, the crash would have never happened. This is an outrageous application of the Felony-Murder rule that ultimately should not hold up legally. The negligent actions of the Sherriff's deputy should not result in the imposition of criminal liability on the part of the four robbery suspects. This occurrence of the death of Garcia is simply too attenuated from the actions of the robbers.