Riverside judge rejects convicted killers’ request to resentence them for elderly man’s death – San Bernardino Sun

A Riverside County Superior Court judge has denied a request by two men convicted of killing an elderly Banning man during a robbery more than 30 years ago to be resentenced under a new law that redefines a person’s culpability for murder.

David Earl Walker, 51, and Brandon Tyrone Collins, 52, were both convicted in January 1992 of first-degree murder and robbery for the July 3, 1991, death of 77-year-old Wilbur Hutchens. They each were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

SB 1437, a law that took effect on Jan. 1, 2019, effectively ended the role of the “natural and probable consequences” doctrine, making a person liable for murder only if he or she was the actual killer or a major participant in the underlying crime. Additionally, the person must have acted with reckless indifference toward human life, intended to kill the victim or aided and/or abetted the actual killer in the commission of first-degree murder.

Walker and Collins were among hundreds of convicted killers across the state to petition the court to resentence them, claiming their crimes no longer qualified as first-degree murder under the change in law. Had the judge’s ruling gone in their favor, they could have been resentenced for manslaughter, making them eligible for parole for time already served.

Both Walker and Collins claimed in their petitions that they were not the actual killer nor did they intend to kill Hutchens when they robbed him.

In his denial of the petitions, Judge Mac Fisher concluded that each defendant was, in fact, a major participant in the underlying felony — robbery — and that each acted with reckless indifference for human life, said Collins’ attorney, Mark Cantrell.

Cantrell said Fisher found that it was not shown beyond a reasonable doubt that either Walker or Collins was the actual killer.

“I would say that the reason why the judge made that finding is that the record was not clear as to who had done what and what the exact cause of death was,” said Cantrell, who added that he will appeal Fisher’s ruling.

Witnesses told police they saw Collins punch Hutchens and pull him from his car into the street. As Walker held Hutchens up by the shoulders, Collins went through his pockets, pulling cash from two of Hutchens’ wallets before instructing Walker to let Hutchens go. Walker dropped Hutchens, whose head struck the street, causing a major head injury.

Police and paramedics arrived at the scene to find Hutchens, who was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 149 pounds, lying in a pool of blood in the street, next to his car. He died the next day.

In a telephone interview in January from California State Prison in Lancaster, Walker said he never intended to kill Hutchens and that jurors at his trial did not find that he intended kill his victim, nor that he acted with reckless indifference toward human life.

“The only thing they found me guilty of was as an aider and abettor and accessory to the homicide. I always maintained I was there,” Walker said in the interview.

District attorney spokesman John Hall said Fisher’s ruling means that Collins and Walker will continue to carry out their life sentences in state prison. He was not confident their appeals will make a difference.

“While they do have the right to appeal, our office is confident that the trial court’s ruling will be upheld and the defendants will have to complete their prison sentences,” Hall said in an email.

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