The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the case of a man convicted of the November 1993 rape-murder of a woman whose nude and battered body was discovered near the Harbor (110) Freeway in an unincorporated area near Torrance.
Christopher Goree — who was 17 at the time of Dr. Josephine Tan’s killing — was convicted in April 2011 of first-degree murder. Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a rape.
He was initially sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed his sentence of life in July 2014 in the wake of new case law from the U.S. Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court involving cases with juvenile offenders.
The case was subsequently sent back to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, who re-imposed the life without parole sentence in January 2017.
Less than three months ago, a panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal filed on behalf of Goree.
In the Jan. 25 ruling, the appellate court panel noted that the judge found Goree to be “a continuing danger to small women and children” and called him a “rarity whose foul deeds and evil character have earned him the maximum sentence.”
The appellate court justices noted that the state legislature subsequently passed a bill that allows anyone sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for an offense before they had turned 18 to be eligible for release on parole during the 25th year of incarceration, and that Goree is entitled to “a youth offender parole hearing in the 25th year of his incarceration.”
“Stated otherwise, Goree is serving a 25 years to life sentence which includes a meaningful opportunity for release in the 25th year of his incarceration,” the panel found. “The issue Goree has raised on appeal is therefore moot.”
Tan, 41, was attacked as she crossed a pedestrian foot bridge above the 110 Freeway. She did not drive and was using the bridge to move belongings from Carson to Torrance, according to Deputy District Attorney Frances Young, who told jurors that the woman was struck hard enough to be knocked unconscious and apparently woke up either as her clothes were being taken off or as she was being raped.
Tan — who was not quite 5 feet tall and weighed 97 pounds — was strangled with her bra, and she sustained severe facial injuries consistent with a beating.
Goree was 6-foot-2 and weighed about 180 pounds at the time of the crime, according to Young, who told jurors that the victim “fought back as hard as she could.”
Goree was arrested in 2002 after a DNA profile obtained from sperm recovered from the victim’s body was matched to him.