A 55-year-old convicted murderer who was paroled and then landed back in prison following a robbery will get another shot at a shorter prison sentence thanks to a Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling.
Chandler Emile Graham was sentenced to 44 years and four months in prison in July following his conviction for a Lake Forest bank robbery just four months after he was paroled on a second-degree murder charge.
Appellate justices agreed with Graham in a ruling handed down Wednesday that a new law enacted in January allows him to ask a judge to strike sentencing enhancements for the use of a gun in the robbery. The gun-use enhancement added 20 years to his sentence.
The justices overturned Orange County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Fish’s sentence, which was correct under the law when it was handed down last year, because the new law allows convicts to petition for a new hearing.
But even if Fish does strike the gun enhancement in a resentencing hearing, Graham would still face 24 more years in prison before he would get a chance to petition for parole.
At his sentencing in July, Graham pleaded for mercy from the judge because he claimed he was forced to commit the Sept. 21, 2015 robbery at the Eagle Community Credit Union at 23021 Lake Center Drive.
Graham claimed that other convicts, who knew he had been an informant in prison, threatened to kill him if he didn’t pay them $50,000.
The Army veteran said he was motivated by patriotism to snitch on prisoners he said were radicalized by terrorist groups.
Graham was convicted of second-degree murder for killing 66-year-old Tore Johanson in a head-on crash in La Habra during a high-speed chase on Aug. 26, 1994. He was sentenced in 1995 to 15 years to life in prison.
Graham already was on parole when he killed Johanson, according to prison officials and court records. He was locked up in 1990 for vehicle theft and grand theft, and, in May 1992, pleaded guilty to a felony count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance and a misdemeanor count of being under the influence of a controlled substance.
Four months after he was released in 2015, Graham walked into the credit union and robbed four employees, including one who was pregnant. He pointed the gun at the woman’s belly, according to the justices.
Graham led police on a high-speed chase following the bank robbery.
Prosecutors argued that there was no way a judge would strike the gun-enhancement in a resentencing of Graham, but the justices said the defendant still deserves another chance to a hearing to reduce his punishment.
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