California Supreme Court Declines to Take up Case of ATV Rider’s Murder

California Supreme Court Declines to Take up Case of ATV Rider’s Murder

The California Supreme Court declined to review the case of a Lancaster man who was convicted of the shooting death of an all-terrain vehicle enthusiast in the desert almost ten years ago.

Arturo Lopez is currently serving a state prison sentence of 45 years to life for the murder of Steven Finson, who was found dead near his ATV after being reported missing by his wife on February 23, 2014.

In 2016, Lopez was initially convicted of Finson’s murder, but his conviction was overturned by a state appellate court panel in 2018. The panel found that the trial court had given incorrect instructions to the jurors regarding two theories of guilt, one of which was legally incorrect.

In 2021, Lopez was subsequently convicted of second-degree murder, with the gun allegations being proven true.

In a ruling just over two months ago, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s argument that Lopez’s attorney had provided ineffective assistance of counsel in his retrial by not objecting to testimony from two of Lopez’s former girlfriends regarding his past firearm use.

“The prosecution’s theory was that Lopez intentionally shot Finson, a moving target, from a distance of at least 100 yards. As acknowledged by Lopez’s own expert, this would require expertise in firearms,” wrote Presiding Justice Dennis Perluss on behalf of the panel in their ruling on May 17. “Therefore, Lopez’s frequent target practice, which often involved shooting at small animals, was relevant to his familiarity with firearms and his ability to hit a moving target from a distance.”

The appellate court panel also highlighted that the testimony from Lopez’s two ex-girlfriends was significant in refuting the defense’s claim that the shooting was accidental. It also undermined an account given by one of Lopez’s friends, who claimed that Lopez had stopped along the road to test-fire a handgun.

“Considering the evidence that Lopez frequently used firearms on his property, even firing them inside his home, there was no reason for him to test-fire a gun by the side of the road,” Perluss explained. The ruling, which was agreed upon by Associate Justices John Segal and Gail Ruderman Feuer, emphasized that the “frequency and nature of Lopez’s prior experience with firearms was highly relevant to his ability to shoot Finson from a distance.”

Reference

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