Life Sentence for Murder in the Course of Committing an Attempted Robbery

In People v. Chiu (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 1260, the defendant received a life-without-parole sentence based on his commission of murder in the course of committing an attempted robbery. He also received a 25-year-to-life enhancement pursuant to section Penal Code 12022.53(d) for discharging a firearm, causing death. The court held both punishments could be imposed. It reasoned that the purpose of section 12022.53(j) was merely to ensure that a firearm enhancement imposed pursuant to section 12022.53 did not "inadvertently supersede a law that would impose an even greater punishment on a defendant for employing a firearm in committing one of the enumerated crimes." (People v. Chiu, supra, 113 Cal.App.4th 1260, 1264.) The "greater penalty" provision of section 12022.53(j) therefore referred to a greater penalty "for that firearm use or discharge . . .." (Chiu, at p. 1264.) As the special circumstance finding was not based on firearm use, section 12022.53(j) had no application and both the life-without-parole sentence and the section 12022.53(d) 25-year-to-life enhancement could be imposed: "Defendant's LWOP sentence is for murder in the course of the attempted robbery. His enhancement covers his intentional and personal discharge of a firearm to carry out that attempted robbery murder. The two are not identical and both may be punished." (Chiu, at p. 1265.)