The so-called felony murder rule that treated an accomplice to a murder as if he or she was the actual murderer was amended in 2017 so that an accomplice could only be convicted as the murderer when malice aforethought is shown. In practical terms, this means that an accomplice to a murder who was not the actual murderer and who did not plan or anticipate the murder, cannot be held liable for the murder. Previous to this amendment, that was not the case.
Example: Sherry and her boyfriend plan an armed robbery. Sherry’s role is to drive the car to the location, wait for her boyfriend to commit the robbery, and after that is accomplished to drive her boyfriend away from the location. In other words, she was the “getaway driver.” There was no evidence that the plan might include murdering the robbery victim. But as it turned out, the robbery victim had a gun and as he reached for it, Sherry’s boyfriend panicked and fatally shot the victim. Under the old felony murder rule, Sherry would be just as culpable for the murder as it was a “natural and probable consequence” of an armed robbery. Under the amended law, Sherry could not be convicted of the murder unless the evidence showed that she had prior knowledge and/or intent (a plan) that the murder could or would occur.
Effective January 1, 2018, a new law (Penal Code section 1170.95) gave those who had been convicted of felony murder or murder under a natural and probable consequences theory the opportunity to file a petition with the superior court for resentencing under certain circumstances. Many defendants convicted of murder under the old felony murder rule filed a petition for resentencing. But the appellate courts interpretated the relief available under Section 1170.95 as applicable only to those convicted of murder. This left out, for example, defendants who were initially charged with murder under the old rule, but who entered a plea bargain for a reduced charge on manslaughter or who were convicted on attempted murder.