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Breaking Legal Developments

05-21-2001

Published by:
Peter A. Lynch, Esq.
of Cozen O'Connor
palynch@cozen.com
http://www.cozen.com

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:      This weekly newsletter covers:

  1. Connecticut Court Affirms Arson Conviction Finding Firefighters Endangered
  2. Connecticut Court Affirms Arson Convictions Overcoming Defense Attack of Fire Investigation Testimony


(1) CONNECTICUT COURT AFFIRMS ARSON CONVICTION FINDING FIREFIGHTERS ENDANGERED

In State v. Brown, SC 16235 (May 22, 2001) (pdf viewer needed), the Connecticut Supreme Court reviewed the defendant's arson conviction. The defendant had been convicted of violating General Statute section 53a-111(a)(4) "a person is guilty of arson in the first degree when, with intent to destroy or damage a building . . . he starts a fire . . . and (4) at the scene of such fire . . . a . . . firefighter is subjected to a substantial risk of bodily injury."

The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, finding the State offered evidence of firemen crawling on their hands and knees looking for children in the house and the defendant knew there were no children in the house. Yet the firefighters were on their hands and knees crawling to see if a child was in the dresser or under a bed. That testimony was needed to show the firefighters were subjected to a substantial risk of harm as required by the statute.


(2) CONNECTICUT COURT AFFIRMS ARSON CONVICTIONS OVERCOMING DEFENSE ATTACK OF FIRE INVESTIGATION TESTIMONY

In State v. Ancona, SC 16255 (May 22, 2001) (pdf viewer needed), the Connecticut Supreme Court reviewed the defendant's four separate arson convictions. The defendant owned four separate properties which all burned and were heavily encumbered with debts. He challenged the sufficiency of the evidence on the fire at 95 South Main Street.

A fire marshal testified the fire was "inconclusive" because nothing was found in the debris that could tell what the cause was. A police officer testified that he concluded the fire was intentionally set based on the fact that all accidental and natural causes had been ruled out. On cross examination the officer admitted a cigarette would not leave anything behind which could have caused the fire. The defendant claimed the evidence was not sufficient for that conviction.

The Supreme Court disagreed noting the defendant had a financial motive and logistic opportunities to start the fire. Evidence on the point of origin and it being intentionally set was also introduced. Moreover, the defendant's acts suggested consciousness of guilt because he attempted to destroy financial records to hide his dire financial straits. The testimony discrepancies noted above did not contradict his guilt nor require a finding of not guilty.

Mr. Lynch can be reached at Cozen and O'Connor, 501 West Broadway, Suite 1610, San Diego, California 92101, 800-782-3366 (voice), 619-234-7831 (fax), palynch@cozen.com (e-mail), http://www.cozen.com. Follow us on Twitter at @firesandrain.

Please direct comments, suggestions, stories, and other items to the author by e-mail at palynch@cozen.com

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