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Name: People v. Williams
Case #: C042763
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 03/15/2004
Subsequent History: Rev. granted 6/9/04: S123910

Appellant attempted to evade a police officer while driving a stolen car. While traveling at 120 miles per hour, appellant lost control of the car, and it flipped over, killing the passenger. A jury convicted appellant of second degree murder. The murder was tried on two theories: implied malice and second degree felony murder based upon a violation of Vehicle Code section 2800.2, driving with a willful disregard for the safety of others while attempting to elude a police officer. The verdict form did not disclose the theory the jury adopted. On appeal, appellant contended that section 2800.2 employed an impermissible mandatory presumption. The appellate court rejected this challenge, finding that the statute does not state a mandatory presumption, but only establishes a rule of substantive law by defining what qualifies as a violation. However, the appellate court agreed with appellant’s other contention, that section 2800.2 is not an inherently dangerous felony for purposes of the felony-murder rule. The elements of section 2800.2 can be satisfied by conduct which does not necessarily pose a high probability of death. Although there was overwhelming evidence of implied malice, reversal was required because it is possible the jury convicted based on felony-murder.