Ceres man's appeal successful in 2008 attack case

local@modbee.comOctober 3, 2012 

— A state appeals court has sided with a Ceres man who argued he was sentenced improperly in a 2008 attack on another man and a police officer.

Lawrence Buford Morgan will return to court for resentencing after Wednesday's judgment by the Fifth District Court of Appeals. The appellate court reviewed the entire record and didn't find any other "reasonably arguable factual or legal issues."

Morgan originally pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of attempted murder, robbery, false imprisonment, vehicle theft, assault on a police officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He later pleaded no contest to charges of attempted murder, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer.

He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

The charges stemmed from a Dec. 24, 2008, incident in which a man who went to Modesto's Beard Brook Park looking for sex found Morgan having sex with another man, according to court records. After Morgan and the man finished, Morgan walked up to the victim and asked if he had a place to go. The victim took Morgan to his home in the airport neighborhood, where the two had sex, then Morgan pulled out a pistol and demanded money. The victim had only $13, which he offered to give to Morgan.

Morgan tied up the victim and tried to shoot him in the head, but the man moved and the bullet grazed him above his ear. The victim managed to get loose and grab Morgan, who shot the gun several more times. The victim ran out the front door while Morgan tried to go out the back door, which was locked.

The victim flagged down a Modesto police officer, who saw Morgan run outside the house and take a car in the driveway. Morgan drove the car at the officer, who fired several shots from his gun. The car hit a tree; Morgan ran away, but was captured.

In its ruling, the appellate court found that Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge John Freeland improperly applied a penal code that designates "principal" and "subordinate" terms for defendants convicted of more than one crime. The penal code doesn't apply to indeterminate prison terms like the one Morgan received.

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