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Blog: The Crimes Of Carlos Lopez

The crime of murder couldn't be proved.

This case and its possible “legal loopholes” come almost entirely from a Nov. 9, 1971, article in The Times newspaper.

Convicted burglar Carlos Lopez had a murder conviction overturned in a 6-1 decision by the California Supreme Court due to what was termed the “murder-felony rule.” This rule means that any homicide that happens at the same time as a felony non-lethal crime is automatically labeled and prosecuted as murder instead of as a lesser crime.

Lopez went to jail in San Bruno in April of 1969 for burglary. In June of 1969, just two months after being jailed, he escaped with two other inmates by going out a window using torn and knotted blankets. Once outside he teamed up with fellow escapee Clarence Galindo.

Several days after their escape they broke into the Vallemar, Pacifica, house of Christian and May Pedersen with the intent of burglarizing the home. Christian was 92 and had worked for decades as a sea captain before retiring to what he expected to be peaceful years.

Galindo assaulted Christian and then went after May with a pair of tin scissors. According to Lopez, by the time he got into the house Christian was already dying, lying prone on the bed.

Both men were arrested by police who had been summoned by an alert neighbor.

During interrogation, Lopez stated that he actually saved May’s life by knocking Galindo away from her during the attack.

At his trial, Lopez was initially convicted of second-degree murder due to the murder-felony rule. But the Court overturned the conviction stating that “malice aforethought” couldn’t be proved - although they left open the possibility for a second trial. Lopez was still convicted of robbery of the Pedersen house and was sentenced to a minimum of five years. Galindo avoided a trial by confessing to killing Christian Pedersen and was sentenced to life in prison.

Douglas MacGowan

About the Author: Douglas MacGowan

Doug MacGowan has authored seven books and countless articles, mainly about history and true crime. He has been a resident of Redwood City since 2000.
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