Sonora, California - Tuolumne County District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke announced today that convicted murderer Victor Munoz will not be re-sentenced under a new law that allows certain murder convictions to be overturned. California Penal Code section 1170.95, which took effect in 2019, allows convicted murderers to allege that they were convicted of murder under legal theories the law no longer recognizes. If a convicted defendant makes a showing that he or she was convicted under one of the prohibited theories, the burden shifts to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is still guilty of murder under the current law. Responding to resentencing petitions under Penal Code section 1170.95 represent a significant time commitment and restraint on local resources. In all cases, responding requires review of the entire case record, including review of hundreds of pages of trial transcripts, court documents, and more.
On March 11, 1990, Munoz and his brother “Butch” encountered Manuel Gonzalez at the home of a mutual friend. As the three men stood on the porch of the home, Butch struck Mr. Gonzalez over the head with a wooden board. Mr. Gonzalez fell to the ground, and the brothers agreed to rob him. Munoz immediately crouched down and began taking change from Mr. Gonzalez’s pockets. When Mr. Gonzalez tried to sit up, Munoz instructed Butch to continue striking him over the head with the board. When the brothers finished robbing Mr. Gonzalez, they fled the scene and left Mr. Gonzalez lying on the ground as snow began to fall. Mr. Gonzalez died as a result of his injuries.
On July 17, 1991, Munoz pled guilty to one count of second degree murder and one count of second degree robbery. He was sentenced to a life term of 15 years to life.
In October of 2020, Munoz filed a petition for resentencing under California Penal Code section 1170.95. The court found that Munoz had been convicted under one of the now-prohibited theories and shifted the burden onto the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Munoz was guilty of murder under a valid theory.
On December 10, 2021, the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office, represented by Deputy District Attorney Norma De Santiago, argued that Munoz was guilty of murder under the current law. The Honorable Donald Segerstrom agreed with the prosecution and ruled that Munoz was a major participant in the robbery of Mr. Gonzalez and acted with reckless indifferent to human life. Judge Segerstrom denied Munoz’s petition for resentencing. Munoz’s original sentence of 15-years-to-life remains intact.
Munoz – who was parole in 2012, but who has returned to state prison twice since his parole - was finally was denied parole and returned to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as a life-term inmate in September 2021.