A man originally sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2009 stabbing death of a 76-year-old Long Beach woman was re-sentenced Monday to 25 years to life.
Last year, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld the convictions of Freddie Battle and Daniia Lasean Davis, who were found guilty in May 2015 of one count each of first-degree murder, first- degree burglary with a person present and attempted residential robbery in the Jan. 31, 2009, slaying of Leam Sovanasy.
However, the justices vacated Battle’s life prison term and ordered a new sentencing hearing after finding that there was insufficient evidence to support special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a burglary and murder during the commission of an attempted robbery.
Davis’ sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole was affirmed.
The panel noted that “Battle was not the actual killer” and that the special circumstance findings could be upheld only if the evidence established that he was a major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life.
The justices found in their 37-page ruling that there was no evidence that Battle knew Davis was likely to use deadly force in the commission of the burglary and that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that Battle was a “major participant or that his mental state rose to the level of reckless indifference to human life.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James D. Otto handed down the new sentence in a Long Beach courtroom. The victim — who had emigrated to the United States from Cambodia after surviving the Khmer Rouge genocide — was found dead in her home in the 1400 block of Peterson Avenue. She had just returned home from the hospital a few days earlier.
The appeals panel ruling noted that “the most damning evidence against Davis was his own recorded jailhouse conversation in which he confessed to the murder” and that “the only reasonable inference from the presence of Battle’s DNA on Leam’s windowsill is that he participated in the burglary.”
The California Supreme Court refused in 2018 to review the case, as requested by defense attorneys for both men.