People v. Duty

The Facts

Defendant convicted as an accessory arson to his friend’s home.  Friend contended at trial that she had been with defendant the entire night prior to the fire.  They had gone for dinner and drinks and stayed at a hotel.

Procedural History

Defendant convicted at trial and appeals.

Relevant Code:

Accessory is defined in Penal Code, section 32 as follows:  “Every person who, after a felony has been committed, harbors, conceals or aids a principal in such a felony, with the intent that said principal may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment, having knowledge that said principal has committed such felony or has been charged with such felony or convicted thereof, is an accessory to such felony.”

The Issue

Whether defendant had knowledge (scienter) and specific intent for conviction.

The Holding/Rule

To sustain conviction the prosecution must prove “(1) someone other than the accused, the principal to the crime, must have committed a specific, completed felony; (2) the accused must have harbored, concealed or aided the principal; (3) the element of scienter must be present in this, that the accused must have had knowledge that the principal has committed a felony; (4) the element of specific intent must have been present…”

A jury could reasonably infer that defendant aided and abetted in setting the fire.  The first element is clearly satisfied, as defendant’s friend was convicted at trial of arson.  Defendant later claimed that he and his arsonist friend were in his car to San Francisco at the time the fire was set, which was proved to be a false statement.  A reasonable jury could find this false statement as sufficient to satisfy the second element of concealment of the crime.

“In determining the knowledge and intent of the aider, the jury may consider such factors as his possible presence at the crime or other means of knowledge of its commission, as well as his companionship and relationship with the principal before and after the offense.”  Therefore, it can be reasonably inferred that defendant had knowledge of the crime and that supplying their false location to authorities demonstrates specific intent required for conviction.

Leave a Reply