Appeals court reduces 27-year shooting sentence to 12 years

A state appeals court in San Francisco has reduced a 27-year sentence to 12 years in prison for a Richmond woman who shot and severely injured a man who attacked her father.

A three-judge Court of Appeal panel unanimously ruled that the original sentence given to Deyanira Cuiriz, 23, was so disproportionate to the crime that it violated the California Constitution’s ban on cruel or unusual punishment.

Justice Stuart Pollak wrote for the court:

“We are compelled to conclude that this is one of those rare instances in which the prescribed penalty does exceed constitutional limits.”

The shooting occurred early in the morning of Aug. 19, 2012, outside the Richmond house where Cuiriz lived with her parents and was having a 19th birthday party.

Two men drove up in a truck, got out, and began hitting and pushing Guiriz’s father, according to her account to police detectives who interrogated her later that day.

She told the detectives that although the men were preparing to leave, they threatened to return and said they were from a gang, and she believed she was acting to protect herself and her father.

Cuiriz took a gun handed to her by her boyfriend and fired one shot into the cab of the truck, hitting the spinal cord of Oscar Barcenas. He became a quadriplegic.

A Contra Costa County Superior Court jury convicted Cuiriz in April 2015 of attempted voluntary manslaughter, shooting at an occupied vehicle and mayhem, which is defined a willfully disfiguring or disabling another person. She was acquitted of attempted murder.

In January 2016, Judge Trevor White sentenced Cuiriz to the 27-year term. The penalty included two years for the mayhem conviction and a mandatory 25-year enhancement required under state law for mayhem that was committed with a gun and caused great bodily injury.

The appeals court noted that White, a probation officer who prepared a sentencing report and most of the jurors were disturbed by the lengthy sentence.

Seven jurors signed a letter to the district attorney saying they “could not have been more shocked to learn that our verdict ties the judge’s hands at sentencing…We feel betrayed.”

In evaluating the constitutionality of the sentence, the appeals court justices said they considered the factors that Cuiriz had no previous criminal record, had just turned 19, did not plan the shooting in advance and was provoked by what she perceived to be a threat.

The panel said, however, that the crime was still “serious and dangerous” and said the 12-year sentence would be a just punishment.

White had set but stayed a 12-year term for the attempted voluntary manslaughter conviction. The appeals court ruling puts that term into effect.

Cuiriz could be freed in 2023 if she obtains a 15 percent sentence reduction for good behavior while in prison.