A state appeals court on Tuesday overturned a man's conviction in the 2002 slayings of two Israeli citizens after finding jurors were not properly instructed at the conclusion of his trial.
Benjamin Frandsen was found guilty in November 2005 of two counts of first-degree murder along with a special circumstance of multiple murders.
Two other men were also convicted of killing Ben Wertzberger and Adar Ne'eman, whose bodies were buried in shallow graves in San Bernardino County.
The Second District Court of Appeal panel said Tuesday the trial judge erred by not properly instructing jurors on elements of a special circumstance allegation and not explaining that such a finding requires jurors to concluded Frandsen was the actual killer or acted with the intent to kill.
"It is reasonably probable that a properly instructed jury would have found voluntary or involuntary manslaughter was a natural and probable consequence of the crime ... and convicted him of manslaughter, rather than murder," the ruling said.
Frandsen of Los Angeles was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Wertzberger and Ne'eman, both 24, were killed in December 2002. Prosecutors said the two were killed because another defendant in the case, Shane Huang, thought they were trying to take his marijuana.
Huang was convicted in the murders and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
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