Legal Blog

Caitlin Dukes and Jeremy Cutcher Win Firm’s 2022 California Legal Service Award

Published on December 30, 2022

Spolin Law is proud to announce the winner for the 2022 California Legal Service Award, and it’s a tie! The winners are attorneys Caitlin Dukes and Jeremy Cutcher.

The California Legal Service Award was created by Spolin Law P.C. to recognize outstanding work on California cases for the firm’s clients. The firm currently has five employee attorneys admitted to practice in California, as well as multiple independent contractor attorneys, so Ms. Dukes and Mr. Cutcher are standing out from the crowd.

Caitlin Dukes is receiving this award in recognition of her outstanding work on the Velasquez case (PA013483, Los Angeles County Superior Court), where she overturned the murder conviction of a client who had been serving what was effectively a life sentence in prison. Her work involved research, writing, regular communication with the client, and then winning the client’s freedom (along with two other attorneys who were involved in the case). When the client and his family came into the office after being released from prison, he made a note to ask about Ms. Dukes and pass along a heartfelt “Thank you!” for her incredible work on the case.

Jeremy Cutcher is receiving this award for his “above-and-beyond” July 5, 2022, oral argument in front of the Sixth Appellate District, where he responded to sharp judicial questioning with aplomb and presented the best possible advocacy for a client with a difficult case, eventually winning a remand and resentencing for the client from Justice Cynthia Lie (Justices Greenwood and Grover concurring). Mr. Cutcher has also gone above and beyond this past year by volunteering to train other employees on new aspects of the law, including trainings on federal writ deadlines, the major case People v. Christopher Strong, as well as a number of other topics. Mr. Cutcher’s trainings have been for both lawyer and nonlawyer employees of the firm. He has a reputation in the firm for this thoroughness and his ability to distill complex legal concepts into more understandable form.

The California Legal Service Award comes with a price of $500 per winner. Spolin Law P.C. congratulates both Ms. Dukes and Mr. Cutcher on their outstanding work.

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Felony Murder Client Released After Spending Decades in Prison

Published on December 23, 2022

Spolin Law attorney Don Nguyen recently won a California P.C. 1170.95 petition under SB 1437 for a client who was convicted of robbery and murder but was not the actual killer. Upon resentencing, the court ordered the client to be released from prison.

The client was convicted of crimes associated with a shooting in 1994. Although he was 17, he faced charges in adult court. Now in his 40s, the client has spent most of his adult life in prison. He has made great strides to rehabilitate himself and gain an education what will enable him to contribute to society upon release.

This client qualified for resentencing under Senate Bill (SB) 1437, which was passed in 2018 to update P.C. 1170.95. This law limits who can be prosecuted for felony murder, which involves the killing of a victim while in the process of another felony offense. Under SB 1437, individuals who were not the actual killer or did not ai and abet the unlawful killing with malice may be granted resentencing relief.

While Spolin Law’s client did participate in a robbery in the 1990s, he was not armed, nor was he the shooter. He waited until all patrons left the building before entering it. He had no reason to believe anyone would be harmed in the process of the robbery. The felony murder that occurred was not his intent, nor is he guilty of aiding and abetting the actual killer with malice. In fact, he actively worked to limit the risk to patrons at the establishment.

“Our client was convicted of a crime that he did not commit. His actions to avoid harm to others were rightfully considered by the court when deciding whether resentencing was appropriate. Now our client will be released and return to his family,” said award-winning post-conviction attorney Aaron Spolin, who leads Spolin Law P.C.

Spolin Law drafted a P.C. 1170.95 petition pointing out all the arguments that were favorable to their client. The prosecution was tasked with proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the client was not available for resentencing. In the end, they could not, and the court granted the P.C. 1170.95 petition under SB 1437, which resulted in release of the client.

After more than 25 years in prison, Spolin Law’s client will now be released to return to his family.

To learn more about SB 1437 and P.C. 1170.95 petitions, you should reach out to the post-conviction attorneys or staff members at Spolin Law P.C. We handle state and federal criminal appeals and post-conviction matters. We will evaluate your case and help you understand your options. Call us today at (866) 716-2805.

Categories: Uncategorized

Spolin Law Client Gets Sentence Reduced Through SB 1437 Relief

Published on December 22, 2022

A Spolin Law P.C. client’s prison sentence was recently reduced to only four years after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and being sentenced to 16 years.

The client pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in a case where he admitted he “aided and abetted the unlawful killing of the victim without malice.” Since the client was not the actual killer and did not act with malice aforethought, he qualified for relief under Senate Bill (SB) 1437.

SB 1437 allows for resentencing consideration for inmates who were convicted of certain types of murder but were not the actual killer. They must not have acted with the intent to kill. They cannot have been a major participant in the crime or have acted with reckless indifference for human life. The client met all those requirements.

Spolin Law P.C. filed a strong application for SB 1437 relief, pointing out that there were many faults in the client’s case. For example, he was accused of being a gang member; however, the prosecution’s gang expert had never heard of the alleged gang and had never met the client personally. Thus, it was unlikely that the client acted purposefully for the benefit of this alleged gang.

Once the SB 1437 application was granted and the client’s sentence was to be reconsidered, attorney Don Nguyen began the complex task of negotiating with the prosecutor. The state often does not want to admit defeat, so it can be hard to get a lower sentence. However, attorney Nguyen was able to get a new plea offer of a lesser charge with a new sentence of four years.

“This case is a striking example of overreach by the prosecution and California prosecutors using gang membership to vicariously incarcerate other gang members who had no culpability in another gang member’s crime,” said award-winning post-conviction attorney Aaron Spolin, who leads Spolin Law.

Instead of sitting in prison for the next decade, this Spolin Law P.C. client will be released in 2025.

To speak with one of the attorneys or staff members at Spolin Law P.C. about SB 1437 or your case, please call us at (310) 409-4453. Our firm handles state and federal criminal appeals and post-conviction matters.

Categories: Uncategorized

Family Didn’t Expect Anything; Instead, They Won Their Son’s Freedom

Published on December 14, 2022
The first page of one of the filings that Spolin Law made as part of its winning motion for resentencing | Family Didn’t Expect Anything; Instead, They Won Their Son’s Freedom (Blog Post Featured Document)

The above document is the first page of one of the filings that Spolin Law made as part of its winning motion for resentencing.

This morning, members of the Spolin Law staff gave a tour of the office to a former client and his family. It was a surprising and exciting finale of a hard-fought criminal appeal. The client had been condemned to spend his life in prison; however, the firm won the client’s freedom earlier this year, on October 2, 2022.

Spolin Law successfully overturned the client’s murder conviction, resulting in the client’s release. The actual winning petition that the firm submitted, case PA013483, is viewable here.

The client had not intended to physically harm anyone, but due to the overly-broad manner that murder was defined in the law, he had been convicted of murder and was serving time in Centinela State Prison.

After over a year of litigation, Judge David Walgren of the San Fernando courthouse ruled in favor of the client. In doing so, he agreed with the arguments of Spolin Law attorneys Aaron Spolin, Caitlin Dukes, and Don Nguyen, who represented the client through written submissions and in-court arguments.

In 1993, the client had been pressured into accepting a plea deal of 26-years-to-life. He anticipated serving his time and then getting released on parole. But in a cruel turn of events, the client was repeatedly denied parole, including in 2010, 2013, and 2020. A 26-year sentence seemed to transform into a lifetime residence at Centinela Prison.

In early 2021, the client’s family decided to make one last attempt to win their son’s freedom. As the client’s brother, Wilson, described it: “We never expected anything to come of it [the appeal]. We just hired the firm so we would not regret having tried nothing. I wanted to say to myself that we did everything we could.” So when Spolin Law actually won his brother’s freedom, it came as a complete surprise.

Standing in the firm’s busy mailroom on West Olympic Boulevard, Wilson spoke emotionally of the first few days after his brother was released: “Every day for those first three days I would wake up and see him in my house and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was in shock. I never thought anything would come of this.”

Spolin Law staff member Michael Alfi was present at the celebratory meeting. Mr. Alfi is the firm’s Mailroom Manager, and he described how he had remembered receiving mail from the client throughout the course of the representation. “You were a name on an envelope, on a letter. I knew you were a real person but all I personally saw was the mail you sent,” Mr. Alfi said. “Now it’s wonderful to actually meet you.”

The client now lives with his parents, taking care of them while preparing to apply for a job to rejoin the workforce.

For more questions about this or other similar cases, contact Spolin Law P.C. at (866) 716-2805.

Categories: Uncategorized

Spolin & Dukes Attorneys to Give Holiday Gift of $1,000 to Five Current and Former Clients

Published on December 1, 2022

***UPDATE: November 24, 2023: The below blog post is from last year, December 2022. However, law firm partners Aaron Spolin and Caitlin Dukes will be funding this year’s version of the holiday gift program, which will apply from November 27th, 2023 to December 31st, 2023. ***

In the spirit of the holidays, the lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. will be donating $1,000 to five of the firm’s current and former clients ($1,000 per client). These donations will go to the first five clients retaining the firm for an appeal during this holiday season.

Caitlin Dukes and Aaron Spolin walking together

Caitlin Dukes and Aaron Spolin are two of the Spolin Law attorneys participating in the firm’s 2022 holiday gift program.

“The holidays can be a hard time for inmates, especially those who are sitting in prison wrongfully convicted or who have families struggling to take the next step in fighting an unjust conviction,” said attorney Aaron Spolin. “Many current or former clients have opportunities to fight their case; we are hoping that these donations will help them achieve their goals.”

Another attorney echoed this sentiment: Jeremy Cutcher frequently finds himself on the phone with the firm’s California inmates. “This is a hard holiday season because of the economy, because of Covid, you name it. Helping people achieve hope and a positive outlook is crucial.”

The attorneys donating include, in alphabetical order, Jeremy Cutcher, Dan DeMaria, Caitlin Dukes, Annette Gifford, Don Nguyen, Angela Reaney, and Aaron Spolin. (All listed attorneys are admitted in at least one federal court, and some of the attorneys are admitted in various state courts where the firm practices.)

This donation will either come in the form of a credit on the client’s account (reducing legal fees) or a payment made directly to the client or person of the client’s choosing (for clients where no further legal fees are owed).


Further questions about the holiday gift program may be directed to the firm’s case managers, who can be reached at (310) 424-5816.

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