LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A state appeals court panel today ordered a new hearing for a man who pleaded guilty to the murders of four people in their Hollywood Hills home and testified against two other men who were sentenced to death.
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal ordered the lower court to ``hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether to vacate defendant's murder conviction and resentence'' Carlos M. Amador.
Amador -- who was sentenced to four concurrent terms of 15 years to life in state prison -- had sought re-sentencing under a change in state law that affects defendants in some murder cases.
A judge denied that request, concluding that Amador was a major participant who acted with conscious disregard for life and that ``four people are dead, and largely because of his participation in these murders,'' according to the appellate court panel's 12-page opinion.
``Under these circumstances, an evidentiary hearing -- where the People bear the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt -- is required,'' the appellate court justices found, noting that they expressed no opinion about whether Amador is ultimately entitled to relief.
Amador, now 45, pleaded guilty in October 2003 to four counts of second-degree murder stemming from the May 4, 2002, strangulation-arson killings of Gita Kumar, 42; her 18-year-old son, Paras; her 16-year-old daughter, Tulsi; and her 63-year-old mother-in-law, Sitaben Patel, at the family's home.
The defendant testified against Victor Govin and Pravin Govin, two brothers who were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
Victor Govin was found dead in November 2018 in his cell at San Quentin State Prison. Authorities deemed the 51-year-old man's death a suicide.
Pravin Govin, now 52, remains on death row.
Authorities said the killings stemmed from a business dispute over access to an alley between a hotel the Govins owned and one owned by the victims' family in the Universal City area.