Fresno, CA – A man involved in carrying out an armed robbery that left two people dead has been released from prison due to a new California law.
Under Senate Bill 1437, defendants involved in criminal offenses that result in a victim’s death cannot be charged with murder unless they actively committed the act of murder themselves, Your Central Valley reported.
“I’m just disappointed because it seems like victims are getting no justice in California,” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims told the news outlet.
Neko Wilson, 36, was released from the Fresno County Jail on Thursday, after having served nine years and four months in jail in connection to a July 22, 2009 home invasion, The Fresno Bee reported.
Wilson was 27 years old when he and five other perpetrators concocted a plan to rob Gary and Sandra DeBarolo of the high-grade marijuana they were growing in their home.
While his co-conspirators entered the residence, Wilson waited outside in a vehicle.
He later claimed that when they fled the scene, he had no idea that his cohorts had slashed the couple’s throats during the attack, KFSN reported.
Four of the involved suspects are currently serving prison sentences, and the man accused of carrying out the actual homicide is scheduled to face trial in 2019.
Because Wilson was involved in planning the armed robbery, he was also charged for the double murder under California’s former felony murder rule, The Fresno Bee Reported.
Due to the new state law, prosecutor William Lacy filed a motion to dismiss the murder charges against Wilson.
"Neko Wilson planned these armed robberies and two people were murdered and the state of the law in California now is that if you plan armed robberies and people are murdered you are no longer responsible for the murders unless you are the actual killer,” Lacy told the court, according to KFSN.
"In light of the recent passage of [Senate Bill] 1437 the people have reached a plea agreement with Neko Wilson,” Lacey said.
Judge John Vogt granted Lacey’s motion to dismiss the two counts of murder against Wilson, who instead pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery, The Fresno Bee reported.
In November, he will be sentenced to nine years in prison, but because of the time he has already served, Vogt ordered Wilson’s immediate release.
Wilson is the first criminal to benefit from Senate Bill 1437, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Sep. 30.
Brown’s endorsement has now opened the floodgates for hundreds of inmates convicted under the former felony-murder rule to request resentencing.
In addition, criminals involved in the commission of felonies that result in death can no longer be held responsible for murders that result from their actions.
Sheriff Mims blasted the new law on Thursday, referring to it as a means of watering down the state’s criminal justice system to the benefit of offenders as opposed to victims, Your Central Valley reported.
"It has nothing to do with public safety. It doesn't have anything to do with keeping us safer. It has everything to do with reducing prison population,” the sheriff said. “By the time voters realize that they've been duped, the laws are put into place".
Wilson’s brother, San Francisco public defender Jacque Wilson, was instrumental in helping the new law pass through the legislature, KFSN reported.
"Fortunately for my family and many other families like mine, SB1437 provides hope,” Jacque said. “The people that we are talking about, like my brother Neko, he's not a killer."
Jacque said that his brother’s release gave him “a sense of justice.”
“Nine and a half years ago, I had to explain to my father they wanted to kill him, he was facing the death penalty,” Jacque told KFSN. “Today he can walk out."