The California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District affirmed sentences for Rashon Abernathy, Shaquille Jordan and Seandell Jones on counts of robbery and murder.he three defendants were convicted to 25 years to life (Jordan and Jones) and 50 years to life (Abernathy) of robbery, shooting a vehicle and stealing and driving a car unlawfully. In addition, Rashon Abernathy was found guilty for another robbery case.
In the first case in May of2011, Abernathy placed a Craigslist advertisement for a MacBook Pro computer. On May 5th, after communicating with a potential buyer, Eric Castillo, via SMS messages, Abernathy and his friend met Castillo at a recreation center. When Castillo produced $600 in cash for the computer, Abernathy’s friend grabbed the money and ran away together with him. Castillo gave chase, but, as he came nearer the robbers, Abernathy drew and pointed a gun at Castillo and said: “I am going to [expletive] kill you.” Castillo abandoned the chase and called 911 shortly afterwards. The other two defendants, Shaquille Jordan and Seandell Jones were not involved in this robbery.
The second robbery happened on May 11 and all three defendants were involved. Abernathy, using the same Craigslist advertisement scheme was supposed to meet with Gareth Berki, age 18, in front of the school. Berki arrived at 9:15 pm along with his girlfriend Alejandra Faudoa, when he received a call that the meeting place has changed and that Abernathy is waiting for him in an apartment complex in the neighborhood. During the discussion that occurred there, Jones produced and pointed a gun at Berki. The two defendants took $640 that Berki had on him, as well as cell phones from Berki and Faudoa and ran. After being robbed Berki and Faudoa waited in the car for a few minutes, before deciding to report the robbery to the police. They spotted Abernathy, Jordan and Jones in a Honda and decided to follow them in order to get the license plates. The two cars ended in a dead-end street and stopped when the defendants drove next to Berki’s car. This is where Abernathy aimed a gun through the backseat window and shot at Berki, hitting him in the left chest. Berki was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Abernathy, Jordan and Jones argued on appeal that the jury did not find that the target felony (robbery) ended at the point when they got to the place of temporary safety. According to them, the trial court failed to instruct this. The given sentences were unconstitutional both under the federal and under the State of California law. The defendants claimed that the trial court issued unusual and cruel punishments. The trial court, the defendants also argued, did not calculate their presentence custody credits correctly. Abernathy and Jones also contended the evidence regarding them taking and driving a vehicle unlawfully and claimed that it wasn’t enough to support the trial court’s decision. Furthermore, Jones also claimed that the Abstract of Judgment failed to address the fact that his sentence for shooting at an occupied vehicle (count 4 of the case), for which he is to serve a 5-year sentence, was delayed by the trial court as per section 654.
The Court of Appeal reviewed considered these arguments and held that the trial court did fail to instruct with the “escape rule” for felony murder. However, this mistake was not prejudicial. Abernathy’s and Jones’ conviction on account of taking and driving a vehicle unlawfully was based on sufficient evidence. The Court of Appeal also didn’t find the defendant’s claim that their sentences were cruel or unusual punishment had enough merit to be overturned or lessened. Abernathy’s and Jones’ judgments should be adapted for an extra day of presentence custody credit. Finally, the Court of Appeal also ordered that a clerical error in the Jones’ Abstract of Judgment is to be corrected so that it correctly reflects that the sentence on shooting an occupied vehicle on count 4 is true to Penal Code section 654. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgments for Abernathy, Jordan and Jones on all other aspects.
The best defense in a criminal case is interposed at trial. It is an uphill battle in most cases to overturn judgments and sentences on appeal. The attorney you hire for a criminal jury trial is one of the most important decisions you can make. If you are facing serious charges and the threat to your liberty, contact the Johnson Criminal Law Group today.