The Cayucos man convicted of killing his 84-year-old grandmother in 2008 has lost an appeal in his criminal case.
Matthew James Levine appealed on the grounds that San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy erred by admitting evidence of Levine’s possession of firearms as well as tape-recorded statements in County Jail.
Levine’s lawyer argued that the evidence allowed into the trial prejudiced his case.
But the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that the evidence of gun possession was permissible under the law because the official cause of Cayucos resident Dorothy Autrey’s death is unknown, no body was found and he could have used a weapon to kill her.
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The jail recordings showed his motive for murder because he talked about inheriting her home, the justices ruled.
The evidence had value in proving Levine’s guilt and wasn’t introduced merely to make him look bad in front of a jury, according to the court.
Levine, 37, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in April 2009 after his conviction of first-degree murder.
Levine’s attorney, Sharon M. Jones of Ventura, said she filed this week a petition for review of the case to the California Supreme Court, which has 90 days to respond.
Most cases aren’t heard by the state Supreme Court; if his case is denied for review, Levine will have the option to file a federal appeal, Jones said.
Levine claimed he accidentally swung his elbow into Autrey’s chest, and she “flew across the room” and “hit her back on the counter,” according to statements he made to the Sheriff’s Department.
He said he then “freaked out” and put Autrey in a suitcase and dumped her body off an embankment into the ocean, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Autrey and Levine had been arguing over his drinking, which she said was out of control, officials said.
Levine’s lawyer argued that Levine’s statements made while in jail were hearsay evidence and shouldn’t have been admitted because he didn’t testify at the trial.
The comments included his interest in Autrey’s home, which he had stood to inherit; he said he may still be a beneficiary if he were convicted of murder and wanted a lawyer’s advice on the matter.
He expressed those thoughts to a family member. The appellate court disagreed with the hearsay argument.
“The hearsay statements were not hearsay evidence because they were not offered to prove the truth of the matters stated,” the justices ruled.
“Instead, they were offered to show that (Levine) did not care about his grandmother and was concerned only about inheriting her property,” the court ruling states.