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Name: People v. Moore
Case #: B215307
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 08/23/2010

Circumstances of defendant’s driving that led to a fatal vehicle collision, absent alcohol or high speed flight from officers, are factors to be considered in evaluating culpability for second-degree murder. Angry about the burglary of his apartment, appellant got into his vehicle and drove at a high rate of speed, crossed into oncoming traffic, and hit a car in an intersection, killing the passenger. He then left the scene without giving aid and was arrested only after police pursued him to his apartment and forcibly restrained him. When questioned, appellant conceded that he knew a fatality occurred and gave a calloused explanation of what he had intended to do after the accident (i.e., clean up, have a beer, and watch television). Following his conviction for second degree murder and vehicular manslaughter, appellant complained on appeal that the murder conviction was not supported by substantial evidence as he was not intoxicated and was not fleeing police at the time of the collision. The court disagreed. Malice necessary for a murder conviction is implied when the circumstances of the killing show that appellant acted with wanton disregard of the high probability of death. Here, appellant’s driving went well beyond gross negligence. He acted with wanton disregard of the near certainty that someone would be killed and, as the court reasoned, “how could he not be [aware of the risk]?” The court also found that the evidence of appellant’s 2004 conviction for driving under the influence was properly admitted even though alcohol was not involved in the instant offense. The prior conviction was relevant as the jury could conclude that it put appellant on notice of the consequences of driving with extreme recklessness. And the court did not abuse its discretion under Evidence Code section 352 because the evidence of the prior conviction “paled” with the circumstances of the instant offense.