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Name: People v. Pool
Case #: C057216
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/10/2008

Defendant’s knowledge of the existence of a fetus is not a prerequisite for a finding of fetal murder. Appellant strangled his girlfriend. During the autopsy, the pathologist discovered that the obese victim was approximately 12 weeks pregnant and that the fetus died as a result of the death of the mother. Due to the victim’s obesity and the early stages of the pregnancy, the pregnancy was not obvious externally. Appellant claimed he was unaware of the pregnancy, and only learned of it when he received the charging documents alleging two murders. The jury was instructed on malice aforethought, pursuant to CALCRIM No. 520, but the court did not include the optional “natural and probable consequences” paragraph from the standard instruction. Appellant was found guilty of first degree murder and second degree murder of the fetus. The court rejected appellant’s claim that knowledge was required for the second degree murder conviction. Relying on People v. Taylor (2004) 32 Cal.4th 863, the court ruled that “[w]hen a defendant commits an act, the natural consequences of which are dangerous to human life, with a conscious disregard for life in general, he acts with implied malice toward those he ends up killing,” … and he does not need to be specifically aware of how many potential victims his conscious disregard for life endangered. The appellate court gave no significance to the method of killing in Taylor (by shooting), as compared to that in the instant case, strangulation.