No Death Penalty for Getaway Driver

Overview: If you were a getaway driver in a robbery, and one of your partners in crime shoots and kills a security guard, are you equally responsible and likely to be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole? Read this weeks Law Review about Lovie Troy Matthews and find out.

Lovie Troy Matthews acted as the getaway driver in an armed robbery which resulted in the shooting death of a guard.

Marijuana Dispensary

La Brea Collective was a Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary. The dispensary had a double door security system leading into the lobby. The security guard, Noe Gonzales, was stationed at the front, allowing customers with identification and a medical marijuana recommendation to enter.

On the afternoon of October 1, 2008, Leon Banks and two other robbers pushed their way into the dispensary and began tying up employees and searching the premises, with one of them yelling “Where’s the stuff at?” They should know better, you never end a sentence with a preposition. These boys need to go back to school, which as you will learn, would have to be in prison.

The three poorly spoken would be robbers got themselves inadvertently locked inside the dispensary. After firing shots through the front window, they made their escape, but not after Banks shot Gonzales. The suspects fled on foot.

Getaway Driver

The hero, more appropriately, villain, of our story, Lovie Matthews was cruising back and forth outside the dispensary. That’s what getaway drivers do. He slowed his SUV without completely stopping and the three bad guys jumped in. Matthews drove off.

Soon afterwards, the cops caught everyone and with lots of evidence and witness testimony, the robbers, all gang members, were convicted of robbery. That’s why they’re called robbers.

Shooter Banks was convicted by a jury of first degree murder with special circumstances the murder was committed during an attempted robbery – Banks was sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

I Didn’t Do Nothin’

The same jury convicted our driver, misnamed Lovie, Matthews, of first degree murder with special circumstances. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Matthews appealed his conviction to the California Court of Appeal, arguing that as merely the getaway driver, not the shooter, in fact not even actively participating in the robbery, he should not have been eligible for life imprisonment without parole with special circumstances.

Felony Murder Rule

Under the “Felony Murder Rule” a participant in a crime where one of the members commits a murder, can be convicted of the murder merely by participating in the crime with the others, even without being the shooter. So for example if three perpetrators commit a robbery with or without an intention to shoot someone and one of the robbers shoots and kills someone, all three can be convicted of murder under the Felony Murder Rule. And who said they don’t like Rules.

Special Circumstances

In our marijuana dispensary case, the getaway driver was convicted of murder by special circumstances because the shooting occurred during a robbery. Special circumstances results in a more severe punishment, like life without
possibility of parole.

The catch with special circumstances is that the accomplice who did not commit the actual murder must qualify as a “major participant” in the felony murder. Their involvement must be substantial and with reckless indifference to the grave risk of death created by their criminal actions.

So the legal question in our marijuana shooting case was whether Matthews as a “mere” getaway driver could be convicted of special circumstances and sent away for life without the possibility of parole.

Life Sentence Overturned

The Court of Appeal ultimately determined that driver Matthews did not know that any of his co conspirators would shoot anybody, nor was he involved in the shooting per se, nor did he buy the weapon. There is no showing of reckless indifference to human life, just a strong showing of “felony stupidity” as I would call it.

Matthews “merely” drove the getaway car and will get plenty of time in prison, life without possibility of parole.

Buy Pot In Colorado

If these robbers had just waited a year or two they could have driven to Colorado and walked right into a marijuana dispensary with the cash in hand. They’d be out and able to commit more crimes.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or www.portersimon.com.
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The content contained and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author. This blog contains content and opinions concerning the law generally, and is not intended to constitute legal advice or to create any attorney client relationship with the reader. The reader should consult with an attorney about any specific legal issues prior to embarking on any course of action or inaction involving legal matters.