BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man who as a teenager fatally injured an 81-year-old woman during a burglary was resentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole in a hearing where the victim’s family described the profound impact her death has had.
The prison term is the same one David Deshawn Moses has been serving since he was first sentenced in 2012. The court could have resentenced him to 25 years to life, but found the circumstances of the crime and Moses’ behavior in prison didn’t warrant a change.
The resentencing was necessary as additional requirements have been added for consideration when a judge sentences a juvenile who was tried as an adult for murder with a special circumstance — as was the case with Moses. An appellate court vacated Moses’ original sentence and had the case sent back to Kern County for the court to consider his youthfulness, background and potential for rehabilitation, among other factors.
Judge Charles R. Brehmer said Moses has done nothing since his conviction to rehabilitate himself, and the facts of the case, the evidence of the brutal beating he inflicted on Dorothy Session, show he deserves to spend every moment of the rest of his life behind bars.
Moses can seek redemption, Brehmer said, but it must be from inside the confines of a prison.
“No person is without the ability to have peace in their life and to come to grips with their ability to have redemption, and that redemption doesn’t come from the court, doesn’t come from CDCR,” Brehmer said. “That redemption comes from you and your maker.”
Elaine Covert, Session’s daughter, told the court before sentencing that her mother was the rock everyone in the family leaned on for comfort, wisdom and care until Moses fatally beat her in 2010. Moses, then 17, and two others entered Session’s home with the intent to burglarize it.
“The only thing that was stolen that day was her life,” Covert said.
Session taught her how to love and respect others, Covert said. Her mother enjoyed life to the fullest, and the loss of her companionship and love remain deeply felt.
In arguing for a sentence of 25 years to life, Moses’ public defender, Teryl Wakeman, told the court about Moses’ difficult home life. He had no father figure and was raised by his mother until 12, when he became a ward of the court and went from one group home to another.
“The foster care system, particularly at that time, was known as a pipeline to prison,” Wakeman said.
Moses has known nothing but hurt and loss from a young age, Wakeman said.
“If there’s a tiny fraction of a shred of doubt as to the appropriateness of (life without parole) versus 25 years to life for Mr. Moses, I would ask the court to find that,” Wakeman said.
The attorney said there is no argument Moses was “the main actor” in Session’s death, but the teen hit her out of surprise at finding her home in what he thought was an empty house. He entered with the intent to burglarize, not to kill, Wakeman said.
In response, Terry Pelton of the District Attorney’s office said most people, as juveniles, have done “stupid things.” But when you look at the population of the world, he said, the vast majority grow up without brutally beating an 81-year-old woman to death when they’re 17.
Session was accosted in one room then dragged to another where she was further beaten, Pelton said. She suffered a broken nose, missing teeth, cuts to her mouth and black eyes.
“This was a senseless, violent attack on a frail woman,” Pelton said.
He added that Moses’ behavior in a group home was “abominable”; he committed multiple crimes including stealing cars while there. Pelton listed convictions Moses had from incidents that occurred both before and after Session’s death, establishing his lengthy criminal history in arguing against his potential for rehabilitation.
The prosecutor also cited a report from a doctor who examined Moses and found he remains at risk of further violent behavior. The only sentence that protects society and serves justice is life without the possibility of parole, Pelton said.
Moses and two co-defendants, sisters Angelique Nash and Katila Nash, were each convicted of murder in Session’s death. Moses entered the elderly woman’s house with then-15-year-old Katila Nash. Angelique Nash, then 17, served as a lookout during the burglary.
Although the Nash sisters didn’t touch Session, both were convicted under the state’s felony murder rule, which at the time stated a defendant could be found guilty of murder even if they weren’t the actual killer but committed a dangerous act such as robbery or burglary that resulted in an accidental or unintentional death.
Last month, Angelique Nash was granted a motion to be released from custody under a change to the felony murder rule, which now says a person must actually commit or aid in a killing, or have the intent to kill during the commission of a crime, in order to be charged with murder. Those who previously could have been charged with murder can now only be charged with the underlying crime, whether it’s robbery, burglary, carjacking or another serious crime. Another court hearing for Nash has not yet been scheduled.
Changes in state law have also resulted in the release of Katila Nash.