In re McDowellAnnotate this Case
McDowell and Hutchison planned and executed a burglary and an attempted armed robbery of a drug dealer. Hutchison shot and killed the drug dealer. Although he was not the actual killer, McDowell was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole after a jury convicted him of, among other things, first-degree murder (Pen. Code 187(a)) and found true robbery-murder and burglary-murder special circumstances (190.2(a)(17)(A), (G)). After the California Supreme Court’s Banks (2015) and Clark (2016) decision, McDowell sought habeas corpus relief, challenging the special circumstance findings. The court of appeal denied relief, holding that the “major participant” and “reckless indifference to human life” findings are adequately supported. McDowell’s decision to arm himself with a palm knife should be viewed in combination with the particularly risky crime that he planned and led—a home invasion robbery of a methamphetamine dealer. McDowell’s proximity to the crime and opportunity to restrain Hutchison also increased his culpability.