LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Palmdale woman who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her 8-year-old son, Gabriel Fernandez, Thursday filed court papers seeking a new hearing in her case.
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in June 2018, alleges in the petition that she could not now be convicted of first-degree murder or second-degree murder because of recent changes made in state law.
"I think that she feels that somehow maybe, you know, the special circumstance will be dismissed or maybe she'll have a chance that the D.A. will agree with the petition," Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said.
Hatami said that District Attorney George Gascón's directive for these types of petitions is for prosecutors to dismiss special circumstances.
"I'm just not going to do that," he said. "I don't believe it's ethical, and I don't believe it's legal, and I'm not gonna let down Gabriel and Gabriel's family."
But Fernandez could have filed the petition even before Gascón took office, since the paperwork argues that her conviction could be altered due to a 2019 change to the state's felony murder law regarding malice.
"She's not gonna qualify for a number of different reasons," legal expert Alexandra Kazarian said.
Kazarian said Fernandez acted with wilfull disregard for Gabriel's life and was an active participant in his murder. However, if she does not file the petition now, Kazarian said she would waive her right to ever do so.
"So, her lawyers have to do it, but there's less than 0% chance she will ever qualify for this resentencing hearing," Kazarian said.
Fernandez pleaded guilty in February 2018 to a charge of first-degree murder and admitted a special circumstance allegation of murder involving torture. Had her case gone to trial, she would have been facing a potential death sentence if convicted as charged, prosecutors said.
The plea came about two months after jurors recommended her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, be sentenced to death for Gabriel's death after he was convicted of first-degree murder. Aguirre, 40, is now on death row.
"She's a very selfish person," Emily Carranza, Gabriel's cousin, said.
During Aguirre's trial, prosecutors told jurors that Gabriel was routinely beaten, shot with a BB gun, forced to eat cat feces and sleep inside a small cabinet while gagged and bound.
At the time, Hatami called Aguirre an "evil" man who "liked torturing" the boy and did so systematically in the months leading up to Gabriel's May 2013 death.
Carranza said the family was grateful when Fernandez pleaded guilty, even if it was only to spare herself from the death penalty. But now, with the latest filing, she said they were outraged that Fernandez could be dragging them back into additional traumatic court proceedings.
"If you're a baby killer, and you did this with intent, and you knew what you were doing for over eight months, then you don't get a second chance," she said.
Gabriel's death, and the subsequent arrests of Fernandez and Aguirre, led to an outcry over the handling of the case by social workers with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, who had multiple contacts with the family.
An investigation led to the filing of criminal charges against two former social workers and their two supervisors, but the case was dismissed last summer.
A hearing on the petition for re-sentencing is set for June 1 before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli, the same judge who initially sentenced the now 37-year-old woman. As for Hatami, he said he would be at the hearing to "continue to fight for justice for Gabriel."
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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