SAN FRANCISCO—California’s Supreme Court on June 3 reinstated the murder conviction of a man who stabbed to death his former girlfriend, a Filipino American single mother, in front of her two children.
A state appeals court in 2011 had overturned Tari Ramirez Beltran’s second-degree murder conviction for the stabbing death of Claire Tempongko, 28, ruling that the lower court judge at his trial incorrectly instructed jurors on the legal standard for a lesser verdict of manslaughter.
As a result of the second-degree murder conviction, Ramirez was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison for killing Tempongko in October 2000. In his testimony he said that he became enraged when she told him that she had been pregnant with his child and had an abortion.
But after the conviction, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled that Ramirez was entitled to a new trial, agreeing with his defense lawyer that his trial judge gave the jury wrong instructions for determining a verdict of manslaughter.
Trial court Judge Robert Dondero had told jurors to compare Ramirez’s conduct with how an average person would have acted under similar circumstances. Ramirez’s defense argued on appeal that the instruction deviated from California’s prevailing definition that emphasized mental state rather than conduct in finding a verdict of manslaughter.
But the state Supreme Court’s unanimous June 3 ruling stated that Dondero’s jury instruction was correct. Therefore, Ramirez’s conviction for second-degree murder was reinstated.