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Breaking Legal Developments


Published by:
Peter A. Lynch, Esq.
of Cozen O'Connor


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:      This weekly newsletter covers:

  1. Georgia Court Affirms Arson Conviction Involving a Death
  2. Florida Court Reverses Arson Conviction


In Vasser v. State, No. S01A0433 (April 30, 2001), the Supreme Court of Georgia reviewed the defendant's felony murder and arson convictions. The defendant and the victim were pouring gasoline in the defendant's home when a pilot light of a water heater ignited the gasoline. The victim died. The defendant challenged his convictions.

The court upheld the conviction finding circumstantial evidence existed to include his statements he would rather see his house burn than go to the mortgage company. The defendant also moved his belongings out of the house prior to the fire.


In Gilbert Vasquez v. State, No. 2D99-3967 (May 2, 2001), the Second District Court of Appeal of Florida reviewed the defendant's arson and burglary jury convictions. The evidence at trial showed four men including the defendant went to another man's house to scare, fight him and get even for an altercation with the defendant the previous night. The four men went to the house but the victim was not there. Another defendant remained while Vasquez and others left. That other defendant set clothing on fire in the house with a lighter and threw it on the floor. The fire then started.

The state claimed the arson conviction could be upheld as a part of the common design to commit a battery. The court disagreed stating the men wanted to get even with the victim to potentially rough him up. Based on the original scheme it was not foreseeable that the other co-conspirator would set clothing on fire and burn down the house. The arson conviction was reversed.

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), (e-mail), Follow us on Twitter at @firesandrain.

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