Long Beach Press Telegram
A state appeals court panel ordered new court proceedings Friday for one of two men convicted of the murder of an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in Long Beach nearly 16 years ago.
The ruling by a panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court’s order denying Justin Ashley Flint’s petition for re-sentencing, but the justices wrote that they “disagree that Flint is entitled to immediate re-sentencing” for the March 28, 2006, shooting death of Maria Cecilia Rosa.
The panel noted that it agreed with the California Attorney General’s contention that the prosecution must have an opportunity to show Flint is not eligible for re-sentencing because he knew or should have known that the 30-year-old victim was a peace officer acting within the course of her duties.
Flint — who was charged along with co-defendant Frank Christopher Gonzalez — was convicted of one count each of first-degree murder and attempted robbery.
Gonzalez was sentenced to death in May 2008, less than a month after being convicted of first-degree murder and attempted robbery.
Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation of murder during an attempted robbery against Gonzalez, along with an allegation that he used a gun to kill the 30-year-old woman who was on her way to work at the sheriff’s Inmate Reception Center.
Flint was initially sentenced to 29 years to life in state prison, but the term was reduced by three years when a state appeals court panel stayed his sentence on the attempted robbery charge in 2010.
In that 2010 ruling, an appellate court panel noted that Flint sang the title line of the Bob Marley song “I Shot the Sheriff” while behind bars.
Flint unsuccessfully claimed in that appeal that the trial court wrongly prevented him from eliciting testimony to explain why he was fearful of a beating by sheriff’s deputies while he was in jail and from fully explaining why he sang the song to show that he would defend himself against such a beating, according to the 2010 ruling.
In January 2019, Flint sought re-sentencing as a result of a recent change in state law that affects defendants in some murder cases. A judge subsequently turned down that request.
Last December, the California Supreme Court upheld Gonzalez’s conviction and death sentence.
The state’s highest court noted in its 75-page ruling that Gonzalez informed multiple agents during an undercover operation following his arrest on unrelated charges that he had shot a female police officer.
“Gonzalez also disclosed numerous details about the crime, explaining (among other things) that he had left a bicycle at the scene, that he had thrown the murder weapon into the water and that he had not left any footprints because the crime occurred on pavement,” Justice Joshua P. Groban wrote on behalf of the panel.
That ruling noted that Gonzalez and Flint “were also heard discussing killing any witnesses to the murder, and Flint stated that the victim would not have been killed if she had given up her wallet.”
Note: The co-defendant’s last name is listed in the ruling and a prior ruling from the California Supreme Court as Gonzalez, but records from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation list him as Gonzales.