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Name: People v. Simons
Case #: C051632
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/27/2007

Appellant’s statements were not unlawfully elicited in violation of Miranda v. Arizona. Appellant contended that the trial court erred in admitting the statements he made to police prior to his murder trial because they were unlawfully elicited in violation of Miranda v. Arizona since he had invoked his right to an attorney. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that appellant’s request for counsel (i.e., how long would it take a lawyer to get here?”) were not unequivocal. They would lead a reasonable officer to understand only that appellant might want a lawyer if it would not take long. Further, officers verified again that appellant wished to continue the interview without an attorney present.
A husband who kills his wife and burns her car cannot challenge his arson conviction by claiming that the vehicle was his. Appellant also argued that the trial court improperly refused to instruct the jury that setting fire to one’s own property is a defense to the charge of arson. (Appellant was convicted of torching his wife’s car after killing her.) The trial court rejected the argument, finding that when appellant murdered his wife, he forfeited his right to acquire her interest in the car. The murder of a spouse by the other spouse severs the interest in community property and terminates the right of survivorship. Therefore, any failure of the trial court to instruct the jury that the car had to be the property of another was harmless.