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Name: People v. Massie
Case #: C050124
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 08/29/2006

The evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for torture where the evidence supported a reasonable inference that the defendant harbored an intent to inflict cruel or extreme pain and suffering. The defendant argued on appeal that his conviction was not supported by substantial evidence because the evidence was susceptible to a reasonable inference that his assault on the victim occurred in an “explosion of violence and animal rage,” and that he thus lacked the requisite specific intent. In rejecting this argument, the court discounted defendant’s reliance on language in People v. Acevedo (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 195 and People v. Brown (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 596 to the effect that when the facts “give equal support to two competing inferences, neither is established.” (Acevedo, supra, 105 Cal.App.4th at p. 198; Brown, supra, 216 Cal.App.3d at p. 600.) An inference is a logical and reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the proof of preliminary facts, and the trier of fact must decide whether an inference should be drawn and the weight to be accorded the inference. If the trier of fact’s conclusion reasonably and logically follows from the proof of the preliminary facts, an appellate court will not interfere with the conclusion. If, on the other hand, the conclusion is mere guesswork, an appellate court will consider it to be conjecture and speculation, which is insufficient to support a judgment. Acevedo and Brown involved inferences derived from speculation, rather than inferences drawn from preliminary facts, and do not stand for the proposition that a conviction must be reversed when reasonable but conflicting inferences could have been drawn by the trier of fact.