A Court of Appeal panel in San Francisco on Wednesday by a 2-1 vote set aside the conviction of Tari Ramirez, also known as Tare Beltran, and ordered a new trial for him on charges of murdering Claire Tempongko on Oct. 22, 2000.
Ramirez, 38, was convicted of second-degree murder in San Francisco Superior Court in 2008 and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.
The appeals court majority said the conviction should be set aside because jury instructions in the trial were “at least ambiguous, if not misleading” on the standard for a second-degree murder verdict.
The slaying of Tempongko, a 28-year-old jewelry store worker, received widespread publicity because her death followed a two-year history of domestic violence.
Ramirez was arrested three times in 1999 on domestic violence charges and served four months in jail for one of the attacks.
In the month before she was murdered, Tempongko called police to her Richmond District apartment twice, first on Sept. 1 after Ramirez allegedly choked her and again on Sept. 7 when he rang the buzzer of her apartment while intoxicated despite knowing of an emergency protective order that required him to stay 100 yards away.
On Oct. 22, 2000, Ramirez came to Tempongko’s basement apartment and during a confrontation stabbed her 21 times with a kitchen knife in front of her son, then 10, and daughter, then 5. Ramirez was not the children’s father.
Ramirez admitted at the trial that he stabbed her, but said he acted in a state of shock after learning she had become pregnant with his child and had had an abortion.
He argued he should be convicted of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a lesser sentence of three to 11 years in prison, rather than second-degree murder. Prosecutors contended the homicide was calculated and deliberate.
Ramirez, a Mexican citizen who had been working as a dishwasher, fled to Mexico after killing Tempongko. He was arrested in Cancun, Mexico, in June 2006 and brought back to San Francisco for trial.
A year after Tempongko’s death, her family sued the city of San Francisco for allegedly failing to transmit police reports on Tempongko’s calls for help to probation officials, the district attorney and the Superior Court.
The city settled the lawsuit in 2004 by awarding $500,000 to Tempongko’s two children.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News