The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the case of a Canoga Park man who is serving a 30-year-to-life prison term for fatally bludgeoning his 87-year-old mother and 85-year-old uncle.
Arthur Reyes Morales pleaded guilty in January 2017 to two counts of second-degree murder for the killings of his mother, Rita, and his uncle, Manuel Reyes, a double-amputee for whom Morales was the primary caregiver.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor subsequently ruled that Morales was sane at the time of the crime.
Morales, then 63, immediately surrendered to Los Angeles police officers as they arrived at the family’s home in the 7000 block of Eton Avenue, near Sherman Way, on April 30, 2010.
The victims were found dead inside their bedrooms. Both had been bludgeoned with a hammer and Morales’ mother had also been stabbed twice in the chest, according to Deputy District Attorney William Chung.
Morales — who had no prior criminal history and had been experiencing memory problems — had a belief that the family was going to lose their house and be out on the street, even though the mortgage and taxes were paid, according to attorney Robin Berkovitz, who represented the defendant in the sanity phase of the trial.
Morales tried to kill himself before calling 911, Berkovitz said.
The defense lawyer said she believed the evidence was consistent with Morales “not appreciating wrongfulness.”
Both of the prosecution’s experts concluded that Morales understood the natural and quality of what he was doing and the moral wrongfulness of his actions, according to the prosecutor.
Last December, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal dismissed Morales’ appeal, which contended that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The panel noted then that Morales “bargained for the specific sentence he received” and signed a form indicating that he understood what sentence he could face.
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