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View Full Version : Fire starter's intent is the key to possible murder charge


Chuck
09-05-2009, 02:05 PM
If the Station blaze was started on purpose, authorities say, the arsonist could be given the death penalty.

By Carol J. Williams and Richard Winton

September 5, 2009

As authorities investigate suspected arson as the cause of the largest wildfire in Los Angeles County history, prosecutors will be focused on one issue in their attempt to bring murder charges: intent.

If the Station fire was set on purpose, the arsonist could face the death penalty for the deaths of firefighters Ted Hall and Arnie Quinones. The two died Sunday in a vehicle accident while aiding a group of inmates battling the fire, which has destroyed more than 154,000 acres and 76 homes.

The suspect, if convicted and sent to death row, would follow Raymond Lee Oyler, the Beaumont mechanic sentenced to die in June for setting the 2006 Esperanza blaze that killed five firefighters.

Even if the fire was accidental, which investigators have hinted is unlikely, the starter could face jail time if charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide resulting from a tossed cigarette, fuel spill or other careless act that caused the fire. Involuntary manslaughter carries at least a two-year sentence.

"For first-degree murder, the key for the state would be to prove intent to take the lives of the victims," said Stanford law professor Kara Dansky, executive director of the school's Criminal Justice Center.

Under the state's felony murder rule, a defendant who intentionally and premeditatively sets a fire can be found guilty of first-degree murder if someone dies as a result, she said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has said investigators are probing the firefighters' deaths as homicides. A source told The Times that "material that didn't belong there" has been found at the site suspected to be where the fire started, a twice-scorched slope cordoned off by crime scene tape near Mile Marker 29 along Angeles Crest Highway.

The source would not identify the suspicious substance but said it was found in the brush off the highway, within walking distance of the turnoff at the center of the arson probe.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it was an ongoing investigation, said the substance was taken to a lab for testing. The recovered material is not a device, according to the source.

An accidental spark ignited by a careless person hasn't been ruled out, Baca said, adding that in either case the department could pursue homicide charges.

"This is a homicide investigation and could result in murder charges depending on what the district attorney decides to file," said Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a $100,000 reward Friday night for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for setting the Station fire. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said he was asking the county to offer a $50,000 reward.

Under California law, the following sentences apply, according to Dansky:

* First-degree murder: 25 years to life, life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty, depending on the circumstances of the crime. In the case of murder resulting from arson, the death penalty can be applied.

* Second-degree murder: 15 years to life, 20 years to life, 25 years to life or life without the possibility of parole, depending on the circumstances.

* Voluntary manslaughter: three, six or 11 years, plus enhancements for factors like use of a firearm or repeat offense.

* Involuntary manslaughter: two, three or four years, plus enhancements.

Chuck
09-05-2009, 02:07 PM
What are your thoughts on this folks?

It's always a shame when a police officer or firefighter dies especially when it's in the line of duty but I have a real hard time justifying a murder charge with the possibility of the death penalty for this.

I think it would be a mistake. :unsure:

MattHughesRocks
09-05-2009, 02:12 PM
When your going to start a fire in or around Los Angeles County...you already know the population there is something like 13 million.How can you not be setting that fire knowing at least one person would die? I think he should die for his crimes of murder.The "I didn't know" defense is just too weak.

Chuck
09-05-2009, 02:14 PM
When your going to start a fire in or around Los Angeles County...you already know the population there is something like 13 million.How can you not be setting that fire knowing at least one person would die? I think he should die for his crimes of murder.The "I didn't know" defense is just too weak.

Didn't read the article did ya? :tongue0011:

Too many words?

MattHughesRocks
09-05-2009, 02:16 PM
I just woke up. My opinion still stands :blink:

Chuck
09-05-2009, 02:29 PM
I just woke up. My opinion still stands :blink:
:happy0198:

Neezar
09-05-2009, 03:22 PM
When your going to start a fire in or around Los Angeles County...you already know the population there is something like 13 million.How can you not be setting that fire knowing at least one person would die? I think he should die for his crimes of murder.The "I didn't know" defense is just too weak.

I totally agree. And how could you start a fire by accident? You know the conditions/risks there.

Chuck
09-05-2009, 03:46 PM
I totally agree. And how could you start a fire by accident? You know the conditions/risks there.

So you didn't read it either? :blink:

Seriously ladies....

Neezar
09-05-2009, 04:26 PM
So you didn't read it either? :blink:

Seriously ladies....

I skimmed it. Same difference. What I mean is, even if he threw out a ciggie then THAT is no accident. There are some things that you just don't do.
You don't tug on superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don't mess around with jim
In Cali, you don't throw out a ciggie.

Neezar
09-05-2009, 04:27 PM
I skimmed it. Same difference. What I mean is, even if he threw out a ciggie then THAT is no accident. There are some things that you just don't do.
You don't tug on superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don't mess around with jim
In Cali, you don't throw out a ciggie.


Unless, of course, you WANT to start a fire. :wink:


:laugh:

VCURamFan
09-05-2009, 04:33 PM
I agree with Michelle & Denise: if you're going to just throw matches at a pile of brush next to a propane dealership with a fireworks stand out front, you're just asking for trouble.:Whistle:

Chuck
09-05-2009, 04:34 PM
I skimmed it. Same difference. What I mean is, even if he threw out a ciggie then THAT is no accident. There are some things that you just don't do.
You don't tug on superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don't mess around with jim
In Cali, you don't throw out a ciggie.

:D

So somebody who is careless and throws a cigarette out a window should be charges with 2 counts of HOMICIDE?

That just seem pretty extreme to me. Especially when you factor in the FF's died in a car accident related to the fire... :blink:


Guy sets house on fire with people in it = murder obviously...

guy sets a shed on his property on fire to destroy it, fire spreads to Forrest fire... FF dies.... guy gets death penalty??? Life in prison?

I think it's a poorly written law that's all.

NateR
09-05-2009, 06:44 PM
Considering the extent of the damage, I'd say the death penalty is warranted if the fire was started intentionally. If it was unintentional, then that person just needs to spend the rest of their life in prison.

Chuck
09-05-2009, 07:08 PM
Considering the extent of the damage, I'd say the death penalty is warranted if the fire was started intentionally. If it was unintentional, then that person just needs to spend the rest of their life in prison.

So if our forum pal Mac were welding in his shop.. accidentally starts a fire that spreads and 2 FF's die because of it.....

Life in prison????

Bonnie
09-05-2009, 09:34 PM
If it was intentional, then that person is responsible for everything that has happened--property damage and any deaths that have occurred.

Accidental? There has to be some consequences for that person also and those would depend on how the accident happened. If you know what the conditions are there and you are being "careless" with cigarettes or doing things you shouldn't be doing and start a fire, the consequences should be greater than a "truly" accidental cause especially if that person comes forward. I think Mac would have come forward right away. :)

Unfortunately, I doubt they will find the person(s) who started this.

NateR
09-05-2009, 11:44 PM
So if our forum pal Mac were welding in his shop.. accidentally starts a fire that spreads and 2 FF's die because of it.....

Life in prison????

Well, that's not going to happen down in Shelbyville, it's just too wet and everything out there is too spread out. I'm also sure that Mac is responsible enough to keep fire extinguishers around.

I just think that if your carelessness causes 76 families to lose their homes, then there should be some severe consequences.

Neezar
09-06-2009, 12:54 AM
Well, that's not going to happen down in Shelbyville, it's just too wet and everything out there is too spread out. I'm also sure that Mac is responsible enough to keep fire extinguishers around.

I just think that if your carelessness causes 76 families to lose their homes, then there should be some severe consequences.

Mac would have put it out with the Thunderclap.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShZrVG_tYU4

:laugh:

MattHughesRocks
09-06-2009, 01:51 AM
A girl whos got her facts and figures straight :laugh:


I skimmed it. Same difference. What I mean is, even if he threw out a ciggie then THAT is no accident. There are some things that you just don't do.
You don't tug on superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don't mess around with jim
In Cali, you don't throw out a ciggie.

Chuck
09-06-2009, 03:15 AM
Mac would have put it out with the Thunderclap.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShZrVG_tYU4

:laugh:

I had a buddy who had the Thunderclap once... poor guy.. :ninja:

Tyburn
09-06-2009, 10:14 AM
in the past theifs have been hung...so I dont see why arson shouldnt carry a similar penalty :laugh: