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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An appeals court has overturned the murder and robbery convictions of one of two men found guilty in a shooting at a Lamont gas station in 2016 that killed a father and son.
In Thursday’s ruling from the 5th District Court of Appeal, Judge Donald R. Franson Jr. wrote the trial court was wrong in allowing the jury to hear statements Jim Langston made to detectives before being read his Miranda rights.
“During Langston’s first interview, the detectives who questioned him did not provide Miranda warnings until over two hours into the interview, elicited a confession of his involvement in the underlying crimes in that prewarning period and then, after the warnings, re-interrogated him about the same facts,” wrote Franson, part of a three-judge panel that examined the appeal.
The 47-year-old Langston, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole, will eventually be transported for a hearing in Superior Court, and prosecutors will decide whether to retry him.
In another ruling Thursday, the convictions against co-defendant Darnell Hammond were upheld, but gang enhancements and gang-murder special circumstance allegations were overturned. The enhancements and allegations can be retried.
Hammond, 29, will continue to serve a life term.
Hammond and Langston were found guilty in 2021 of killing the owners of Quality Gas, on the southwest corner of Main Street and Panama Road, during a robbery. A jury found the men acted on behalf of the Country Boy Crips street gang.
Heriberto Aceves, 60, and son Juan Luis Aceves, 27, were each shot multiple times.
Surveillance video captured the incident. Two other men participated in the robbery but had not been identified at the time of the trial. The robbers wore masks.
Hammond was arrested shortly afterward. DNA evidence linked him and Langston to the crime, according to prosecutors.
Langston, the alleged getaway driver, was prosecuted under the state’s felony-murder rule. Surveillance video captured him cashing a payroll check at the gas station about 15 minutes before the robbery. It was a Friday, when numerous payroll checks were cashed at the business, and prosecutors said the robbers expected to get away with a large amount of cash.
Days later, Langston was detained, handcuffed and brought to sheriff’s headquarters for questioning by Detectives Richard Anderson and John Coleman.
“During the middle of the interview, after approximately 90 minutes of questioning (the detectives) left Langston alone in the room for approximately 30 minutes,” according to a summary of the case included in the appeals court’s ruling. “Subsequently, Anderson returned and continued to question Langston for another eight minutes before providing him with Miranda warnings.”
Despite Anderson telling Langston they brought him in because his name “came up” in the investigation, and he was free to leave if he wanted, the appellate justices found Langston to have been in custody from the moment he was handcuffed, and it was clear the detectives intended to treat him as a suspect.
“Even though Anderson initially removed Langston’s handcuffs and told him he was free to leave, any reasonable person in Langston’s shoes would not have believed this to be the case,” Franson wrote.
He added, “(Langston’s) eventual arrest, coupled with the detectives’ knowledge of his involvement before his questioning and the nature of the questioning, supports an objective finding he was in custody during the entire questioning process.”