BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An appellate court has overturned the murder conviction of a man who was found guilty of shooting and killing a man and injuring a woman outside a Bakersfield marijuana dispensary in 2017.
Justices with the 5th District Court of Appeal found there was insufficient evidence to convict Troy Sanders, and in their ruling Thursday said Sanders is barred from being retried under the double jeopardy clause. His convictions on attempted murder and firearm and gang charges were also overturned.
Sanders, 30, was sentenced in 2018 to life without parole.
“While a surveillance camera recorded a significant portion of this shooting, the recording raises clear reasonable doubt that Sanders was the direct perpetrator of these crimes, and the remaining circumstantial evidence does not reasonably establish that he was the gunman,” the appellate court’s ruling says. “A reasonable jury could not have convicted Sanders beyond a reasonable doubt based on the trial evidence.”
Deputy Public Defender Tim Blenner, who represented Sanders, said he was surprised at the ruling — not because he didn’t agree with it, but because it’s rare for an appellate court to overturn a conviction based on insufficient evidence. He said this was a case the where the result kept him up at night as he was sure there was not enough evidence to find Sanders guilty.
“Every attorney has a handful of cases that haunts them, where you wonder what went wrong, and this has been one for me,” he said.
The District Attorney’s office said it will be working with the attorney general on pursuing an appeal to the California Supreme Court.
“The evidence was more than sufficient for 12 jurors who actually witnessed the trial testimony and evidence to find Sanders guilty beyond any reasonable doubt,” said District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer. “The three-judge panel on the court of appeal, who are of course not present at the trial and must rely on cold transcripts of witnesses, have decided to set aside the verdict rendered by 12 Kern County jurors and replace it with their own, claiming that no reasonable juror could possibly have found Sanders guilty, despite the ample evidence supporting his guilt. We will pursue every avenue of appeal to defend the proper verdict rendered by the jury in this case.”
The attorney general has 40 days to file an appeal.
Early July 4, 2017, Michael Dorrough and his girlfriend, Alize Webber, drove to the Mars Collective dispensary on Union Avenue. Dorrough went inside while Webber waited in the car. A man approached the car and peered inside before walking behind a nearby fence.
Dorrough returned to the car and began driving away when the man who looked into the vehicle rushed from behind the fence and opened fire, spraying 30 bullets in about 10 seconds. The shooter then got into a vehicle parked on the street and left.
Struck multiple times, Dorrough died at the scene. Webber also suffered multiple gunshot wounds — including one to her head — but she survived.
Sanders was arrested later that month and his cellphone seized. Examining his cellphone data, investigators determined the phone was in the general area of the shooting around the time it occurred. That area, however, also encompassed Sanders’ residence.
Blenner said the cellphone data wasn’t precise, and the phone could have been miles away but still pinging off the same cell tower.
Surveillance video of the shooting was presented at trial, but the race of the shooter could not be determined from the footage. The lead detective testified he believed the shooter was “a light-complected African-American male,” but a deputy who viewed the footage wrote in a report that the gunman was white or Hispanic.
Sanders is Black.
“The evidence establishing (Sanders’) identity as the shooter was neither reasonable, credible, nor of solid value,” the appellate court wrote. “The circumstances do not reasonably justify the jury’s verdicts.”