A state appeals court panel Thursday ordered a hearing in juvenile court for a gang member convicted of murdering a 16-year-old female honor student by opening fire on a crowd of people after a high school homecoming football game in Long Beach in 2009.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal conditionally reversed Tom Love Vinson’s 155 1/2-year-to-life state prison sentence and directed a Superior Court judge to refer the case to juvenile court for a transfer hearing to determine whether it would have transferred the case against Vinson — who was 16 at the time of the crime — to adult criminal court if it had originally been filed in juvenile court in accordance with current law.
“If the juvenile court determines it would not have transferred the case to criminal court under current law, it shall treat Vinson’s convictions as juvenile adjudications as of the date Vinson was convicted and impose an appropriate disposition. If the juvenile court determines it would have transferred the case to adult criminal court, it shall transfer the case back to the superior court, which shall then reinstate Vinson’s sentence,” the appellate court panel found in its nine-page opinion.
Vinson, now 29, was convicted in September 2011 of first-degree murder for the Oct. 30, 2009, shooting death of Melody Ross outside Wilson High School.
Vinson also was found guilty of the attempted murders of two gang rivals who were the intended targets and survived their wounds, along with one count of attempted manslaughter involving a girl who was sitting next to Ross on the curb just after the football game finished. She was not injured.
Vinson, a former Wilson student, testified during his trial that one of the rival gang members pulled a gun before he started shooting.
Ross, a Wilson High School junior who was in Advanced Placement classes and on the track team, was among a crowd of spectators who were leaving the game when she was shot once in the upper body.
A second defendant, who turned 16 a day after the crime, was sentenced to eight years and four months in a juvenile facility after pleading no contest to manslaughter and attempted murder.