Special Operations

About Special Operations Unit

The Special Operations unit handles a wide variety of high-profile projects that require specialized attention from veteran prosecutors.

Litigation of hundreds of murder convictions being contested by defendants due to the passage of SB 1437, which created new restrictions on murder laws that have retroactive effect. 

Evaluation and litigation of thousands of cannabis sales convictions that are being contested by defendants due to new laws having retroactive effect.  

Litigation of motions involving defendants seeking various forms of post-conviction relief.

David Cunningham

Case #10CF1764

On October 01, 2012, Defendant David Cunningham pled guilty to First Degree Murder for shooting and killing victim Jason Williams during a planned robbery.  He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. On February 06, 2019 (after serving less than 10 years of his sentence), Defendant Cunningham filed a petition under PC 1170.95 requesting that his murder conviction be vacated.  The OCDA’s Special Operations Unit opposed his position.  On 07/10/2020, Judge Gary Paer of the Orange County Superior Court agreed with the People’s position and denied the Defendant’s petition for resentencing.

Next-of-kin family members of murder victims of defendants seeking relief of their murder convictions pursuant to Penal Code Section 1170.95 may contact the OCDA’s Special Operations Unit at (714) 347-8547.

To see the law setting forth the procedure by which certain defendants can challenge their prior murder conviction, see Penal Code Section 1170.95.

To determine when proceedings may be scheduled in cases you may visit www.occourts.org 


Senate Bill 1437, which came into effect on January 1, 2019, changed the law governing the applicability of the felony murder and natural and probable consequences doctrines to the crime of murder under Penal Code Sections 188 and 189.  Senate Bill 1437 also created Section 1170.95, which gave previously convicted murder defendants an opportunity to petition the court to have their murder convictions vacated under some circumstances.

First, all principals must now have their own malicious intent in order to be charged with murder.  SB 1437 amended Penal Code section 188 by adding a requirement that all principals to murder must act with express or implied malice to be convicted of that crime.  Second, SB1437 amended Penal Code section 189 by adding a requirement to the felony murder theory that defendants who were not the actual killer or a direct aider and abettor must have been a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life.

Yes, it is retroactive indefinitely.  Convictions, regardless of how long ago they took place, may be challenged under Penal Code Section 1170.95.

Please contact the Special Operations Unit at (714) 347-8547.  Please leave a message and your call will be returned.

Except where a defendant is statutorily ineligible for relief, cannabis-related convictions are being vacated and dismissed or reduced following the mandates of Health & Safety Code section 11361.8 and 11361.9.