Friday, February 18, 2011

On Being Careful What You Drop

People v. Wilkins, no. G040716 (Cal. App. Jan. 7, 2011)

There's an interesting case out of the California Court of Appeals recently that is thought provoking.

Here's how it went down.

Wilkins, a resident of Long Beach, California, burglarized a new home site in Riverside County one day after he'd worked there. The home owner had received a delivery of appliances and other goods from a nearby Home Depot and locked them in the garage.

Ever the enterprising thief, Wilkins showed up bright and early the next day and cleaned out the garage of its contents, loaded up, and headed off to Orange County.

He'd done a lousy job of loading the loot, and somewhere in Anaheim, a brand new range fell off the back of the truck in the middle of the 91 Freeway. David Piquette, a motorist, swerved to avoid the range, hit a cement truck, and died at the scene.

Wilkins was arrested and tried for murder under the felony-murder doctrine that exists in California, and as criminals do, he tried to blame it on his girlfriend, alleged that some other person was driving the truck that actually lost the range, and accounted for the stolen property by explaining that he'd bought it from an unknown person-thus attempting to defeat the idea he'd acquired it by felony.

The court of appeals was not impressed, stating that burglary falls expressly within the reach of the California felony murder rule, and affirmed the sentence of life imprisonment.