A state appeals court panel vacated a life-without-parole prison sentence for one of two men convicted in the 2009 stabbing death of a 76-year-old Long Beach woman.
In a ruling this week, the three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ordered a new sentencing hearing for Freddie Battle after finding that there was “insufficient evidence” to support the special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a burglary and murder during the commission of an attempted robbery against him.
Battle and co-defendant Daniia Lasean Davis were convicted in May 2015 of one count each of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary with a person present and attempted residential robbery in connection with the Jan. 31, 2009, slaying of Leam Sovanasy.
The appellate court panel upheld the convictions of both men on the three charges, noting that “the most damning evidence against Davis was his own recorded jailhouse conversation in which he confessed to the murder” and that “the only reasonable inference from the presence of Battle’s DNA on Leam’s windowsill is that he participated in the burglary.”
But the panel noted that “Battle was not the actual killer” and that the special circumstance findings can be upheld only if the evidence establishes that he was a major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life.
The justices found in their 37-page ruling that there was no evidence that Battle knew Davis was likely to use deadly force in the commission of the burglary and that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that Battle was a “major participant or that his mental state rose to the level of reckless indifference to human life.”
The victim — who had emigrated to the United States from Cambodia after surviving the Khmer Rouge genocide — was found dead in her home in the 1400 block of Peterson Avenue. She had just returned home from the hospital a few days earlier.
Battle and Davis have been behind bars since they were arrested in September 2013 by Long Beach police in connection with the killing.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: