CORRECTION (Published 2/14/2013)

A story about a Bay Point man's murder conviction being overturned misspelled the last name of UC Berkeley School of Law professor Charles Weisselberg.

MARTINEZ -- A state appeals court has thrown out a Bay Point man's murder and robbery convictions because interrogating detectives misled him to believe that he wouldn't get a life sentence if he admitted the killing was the result of a "robbery gone bad."

The opinion issued by the First Appellate District last week in the case against Paul Antonio Westmoreland clarifies how far police investigators can go in deceiving a suspect to garner a confession, said UC Berkeley School of Law professor Charles Weisselberg. While officers can use many deceptive tactics, they can't imply a promise of leniency by misstating a penalty.

Westmoreland was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 2009 for fatally stabbing 47-year-old Concord resident Francisco Sanchez on Aug. 20, 2005. The state court said the jury that convicted him of first-degree murder, burglary and robbery should have never heard Westmoreland's confession because Contra Costa Sheriff's detectives falsely asserted that he would get a lighter sentence if he admitted to a nonpremeditated killing during a robbery. In reality, premeditated murder without the special circumstance of robbery calls for the lighter sentence: 25 years to life with the possibility of parole.

"The deception presented here with respect to the consequences of the statement are actually what got (Westmoreland) life without parole instead of just life," Weisselberg said.


Advertisement

Westmoreland will return to Contra Costa County to be retried on the murder and robbery charges, according to the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office. His new trial date is pending.

Westmoreland fatally stabbed Sanchez with a steak knife in a vacant Bay Point apartment where Westmoreland's girlfriend, Erica Gadberry, had lured Sanchez from a local bar with the promise of sex, according to testimony at the first trial.

The plan was for Westmoreland to surprise Sanchez and rob him after Sanchez had undressed, Gadberry testified. It was a scheme the couple had pulled off several times before with violent consequences.

Westmoreland's attorney argued at the trial that Westmoreland spontaneously stabbed Sanchez once in the chest after the victim grabbed him during the confrontation.

Sanchez, who immigrated from Mexico with nothing before gaining citizenship and owning a landscaping company, was wearing only his boxer shorts when he was discovered dead outside a Bay Point apartment building by a woman fetching her morning newspaper.

Gadberry, 27, took a plea deal in the case and is serving a 12-year prison sentence.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.