A state appeals court panel Friday upheld actor Michael Jace’s murder conviction for fatally shooting his wife in front of their two young children in their Hyde Park home in May 2014, but ordered his case to be sent back to a Los Angeles court for re-sentencing.
In its 13-page ruling, the three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found there was “compelling evidence that Jace acted with the malice required for second degree murder.”
Jace — who portrayed a Los Angeles police officer on the TV series “The Shield” — was convicted in May 2016 of the May 19, 2014, slaying of his wife, April.
“With the boys watching from their bedroom, he shot and killed April, telling her, `If you like running, then run to heaven,’ ” the panel noted. “Jace told the detectives he fired the first shot, and then after April fell, he intentionally shot April in the legs so, as a talented runner, she would feel some of his pain.”’
The actor was sentenced in June 2016 to 40 years to life in state prison, but the appellate court panel ruled that the case should be sent back to the trial court as the result of a new state law that gives judges the discretion to strike certain firearm enhancements.
At his previous sentencing, Jace apologized for what he had done.
“There is no justification for my actions that night at all, and I am profoundly sorry for the pain I have caused everyone … There is no replacing April,” the actor said then.
The woman’s mother, Kay Henry, quickly walked out of court after Jace maintained that “there was no premeditated anything.”
“I realize it doesn’t bring her back,” Jace said, turning to tell his wife’s family members, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
In her closing argument in Jace’s trial, Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef told jurors that Jace was “obsessed” with his wife, who was trying to leave him amid his claim that she had been unfaithful to him.
The prosecutor said testimony from the couple’s 10-year-old son “tells you it was premeditated.”
Jace “is saying the words that show premeditation — go to heaven,” Mokayef said, noting that Jace shot his wife at close range after having already shot her in the back.
One of Jace’s trial attorneys, Jamon Hicks, conceded that Jace shot his wife once in the back and then twice in the legs. But he questioned whether the actor would have premeditated the shooting knowing that the children would be there.
Jace’s lawyer told jurors that there was no evidence that Jace was brewing or plotting the demise of his wife of nine years, and that the prosecution had “oversold this case” by pursuing a first-degree murder conviction.
“We’re saying he’s guilty. The question is of what?” Hicks said. “This isn’t first-degree (murder). This isn’t second-degree (murder). This is why we have voluntary manslaughter.”
In an audio-recorded interview with police that was played for the jury, Jace said that he was holding the gun when his wife returned home from a baseball game with their sons but that she didn’t immediately notice the firearm.
He told police that she lunged at him, he pushed her away and she spun around before the shooting, and that all he intended to do was “just shoot her in the leg,” not kill her.
The actor also told detectives he had been drinking that day and that “there were moments” when he contemplated taking his life.
Jace is best known for his role as Los Angeles police Officer Julien Lowe in “The Shield.” He has also appeared in such films as “Forrest Gump,” “Boogie Nights” and “Planet of the Apes.”
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