People v. Beagle, Cr. 15794

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation492 P.2d 1,99 Cal.Rptr. 313,6 Cal.3d 441
Decision Date05 January 1972
Docket NumberCr. 15794
Parties, 492 P.2d 1 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Harvey Lynn BEAGLE II, Defendant and Appellant. In Bank

Arthur Shivell, Los Angeles, for defendant and appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Israel Butler, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

WRIGHT, Chief Justice.

Defendant Harvey Lynn Beagle II was convicted by a jury of one count of attempted arson (Pen.Code, § 451a) and one count of arson (Pen.Code, § 448a). A prior conviction of having issued a check without sufficient funds (Pen.Code, § 476a) was charged and admitted but the judgment reflects no disposition of the allegation. Defendant was sentenced to the state prison for the term prescribed by law.

Although we reject all of the many contentions presented by defendant on appeal from the judgment, we nevertheless conclude, inter alia, that a trial judge must exercise his discretion to prevent impeachment of a witness by the introduction of evidence of a prior felony conviction when the probative value of such evidence is substantially outweighed by the risk of undue prejudice. (See Evidence Code, § 352.)

The charges stem from fires independently originating in buildings housing neighboring business establishments, Rudy's Keg, a bar, and north of the bar, Lewin's Furniture Store. Both buildings were located on Vineland Avenue in North Hollywood. Other commercial enterprises are also situated on Vineland south from Rudy's Keg. Behind such establishments are open areas and areas occupied by other structures, including a building in which defendant maintained an apartment.

On May 25, 1969, Rudolph Oravsky, owner of Rudy's Keg, ordered defendant to leave the premises when defendant became intoxicated and obnoxious while a patron in the bar. Defendant attempted to induce another patron to leave with him and when met with a refusal, defendant stated: 'Well, come on and go with me anyway. I want to go into Los Angeles and hire a Mexican to firebomb this place for $25.00.' This conversation was overheard by a third person.

During the early afternoon of July 1, Oravsky was present in a barbershop adjacent to Rudy's Keg and defendant approached and asked if he could have a drink at the bar. Oravsky replied: 'Definitely not . . . this is permanent.' Defendant, who was obviously disappointed, responded: 'Well, Okay,' and left the barbershop. About 9 p.m. of that same day while Oravsky was in the bar he heard a noise which sounded to him like the explosion of a large firecracker. He went out through the parking lot to an alley in the rear and was able to see a fire on the roof of the building housing his bar. He climbed to the roof with a water hose and succeeded in extinguishing two small fires. There he discovered and removed a Pepsi-Cola bottle containing a small amount of gasoline and a wick. During the period of time Oravsky was at the rear and on the roof of the building, he noticed nothing unusual at Lewin's but he did see defendant's car parked near his apartment.

Oravsky returned to his bar and placed a telephone call to the police. Shortly thereafter he telephoned the police a second time and during this call Mr. Duffy, who had entered the bar during the interval between the two calls, noticed the lights of a car as it appeared to turn into the alley and stop. The car, similar to defendant's vehicle, proceeded slowly down the alley and then disappeared behind Lewin's. Both men went into the parking area and Oravsky then observed for the first time that a wooden door facing the alley on the Lewin's building was aflame. He also noticed that defendant's car was no longer in the area. Oravsky called the fire department as Duffy attempted without success to extinguish the flames. Oravsky smelled gasoline at the scene of the fire at Lewin's building and Duffy testified that the fire burned as if it had been ignited by the use of gasoline. The blaze caused approximately $100,000 in damages to Lewin's before it was extinguished.

A fire department arson investigator attributed the fire at Rudy's Keg to the ignition of a flammable liquid placed on the roof of the building. He could find no natural or accidental cause for the fire at Lewin's but a full and conclusive investigation was precluded by reason of the extensive damage.

About 10 p.m. on the evening of the fires Officer Jones went to defendant's apartment. He was admitted by defendant's wife who told him that her husband had left the apartment two to three hours earlier. While there Jones saw a cap from a gasoline can. Approximately five minutes after Jones arrived at the apartment, defendant returned home. His hands smelled of gasoline as did stains on his shoes and pants. Defendant told the officer that he worked at a service station and thereafter had been to a bar for a few beers. Jones arrested defendant and found a number of books of paper matches in his pockets.

After defendant had been removed to a police vehicle, an officer in defendant's presence conducted a field test for the flammability of the liquid in the bottle recovered from the roof by Oravsky. The officer poured out a small quantity of the contents and held a match to it. The liquid ignited rapidly. At this point defendant stated: 'You can't arrest me for arson because the bottle didn't break.' Prior to this statement the police in defendant's presence had made no mention of the discovery of the bottle nor had they questioned defendant as to either fire.

Defendant testified that on the day of the fires he had had an 'early morning' medical appointment and 'had taken off work for this at 12:00 noon.' Afterwards he went to the Big H, a cocktail lounge, where he consumed a few beers. He returned home about 2 p.m. and later during the afternoon he went to the barbershop to have his hair cut. About 4:30 p.m. he returned to the Big H cocktail lounge and thereafter went to a service station to work during a shift change. Around 6:30 p.m. he returned home with a can of gasoline and a ladder as he planned to do some painting. He poured some of the gasoline into a cardboard carton prior to softening his paint brushes. As the carton began to leak he emptied the gasoline contained therein into a drain and directed his wife to return the ladder and the remaining gasoline to the service station. About 8 p.m. defendant drove his car 'across the street' to the Big H and there he consumed several more beers. While at the Big H he unsuccessfully attempted to telephone his home and, becoming worried, decided to return home. There were fire engines in the vicinity and Vineland was blocked off. He parked his car at a nearby market and walked to his apartment where he was placed under arrest for arson. He admitted that he had been ejected from Rudy's Keg earlier in the year and that he saw the bottle in the possession of the police officers.

Defendant's wife testified, corroborating and contradicting defendant's testimony in certain particulars. She corroborated generally the frustrated attempt at painting but gave testimony inconsistent with defendant's as to the approximate time of his departure from the apartment.

Defendant contends that neither count is supported by sufficient evidence. The evidence is virtually all circumstantial; however, the very nature of the crime of arson ordinarily dictates that the evidence will be circumstantial. (See People v. Andrews (1965) 234 Cal.App.2d 69, 75, 44 Cal.Rptr. 94.) In any event, the evidence against defendant is clearly substantial. As to the fire at Rudy's Keg there was proof of virtually every factor the courts have relied upon in affirming arson convictions where the sufficiency of the evidence has been challenged: motive, evidenced by a threat (People v. Watkins (1968) 262 Cal.App.2d 687, 68 Cal.Rptr. 871; People v. Cole (1968) 258 Cal.App.2d 656, 659, 65 Cal.Rptr. 848; People v. Clagg (1961) 197 Cal.App.2d 209, 212, 17 Cal.Rptr. 60); prior presence in the building (People v. Curley (1970) 12 Cal.App.3d 732, 735--736, 90 Cal.Rptr. 783); possession of inflammatory materials (People v. Curley, supra, 12 Cal.App.3d 732, 735--736, 90 Cal.Rptr. 783); presence in the vicinity at time of fire (People v. Alexander (1960) 182 Cal.App.2d 281, 283--286, 6 Cal.Rptr. 153; People v. Wolfeart (1950) 98 Cal.App.2d 653, 220 P.2d 778); People v. Cape (1947) 79 Cal.App.2d 284, 289, 179 P.2d 426); lack of evidence of natural or accidental cause but evidence of intentional (incendiary) cause (People v. Clagg, supra, 197 Cal.App.2d 209, 212, 17 Cal.Rptr. 60; People v. Cape, supra, 79 Cal.App.2d 284, 289, 179 P.2d 426; People v. Andrews, supra, 234 Cal.App.2d 69, 76, 44 Cal.Rptr. 94); more than one fire with temporal and spatial proximity (People v. Cole, supra, 258 Cal.App.2d 656, 658--659, 65 Cal.Rptr. 848; People v. Andrews, supra, 234 Cal.App.2d 69, 76, 44 Cal.Rptr. 94); and defendant's possession of the instrumentality utilized to start the fire (People v. Curley, supra, 12 Cal.App.3d 732, 735--736, 90 Cal.Rptr. 783; People v. Wolfeart, supra, 98 Cal.App.2d 653, 220 P.2d 778).

In addition to his clearly unmeritorious challenge of the sufficiency of the evidence on the Rudy's Keg count, defendant contends that there is no evidence of motive as to the Lewin's fire. Motive, of course, is not an element of arson but the absence thereof may make proof of the essential elements less persuasive. At least two possible motives are suggested either of which the jury could reasonably have found to be present: diversion of suspicion or the hope by defendant that Rudy's Keg because of its proximity to Lewin's would become ignited in some manner from the Lewin's blaze.

Viewing all of the evidence and considering that there are possible innocent explanations for some of the circumstances, we conclude that there is substantial...

To continue reading

Request your trial
803 cases
  • People v. Hall
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 18, 2018
    ...and/or bad character evidence. Moreover, defendant's testimony did not enjoy a "false aura of veracity" ( People v. Beagle (1972) 6 Cal.3d 441, 453, 99 Cal.Rptr. 313, 492 P.2d 1 ) because he was properly impeached with two prior felony convictions for burglary. " ‘In general, the trial cour......
  • People v. Heishman
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 9, 1988
    ...of intent, plan, or motive (CALJIC No. 2.71.7). Such instructions, when applicable, must be given sua sponte. (People v. Beagle (1972) 6 Cal.3d 441, 455, 99 Cal.Rptr. 313, 492 P.2d The Attorney General argues that (1) the instructions were waived, and (2) their absence was not prejudicial. ......
  • People v. Landry, S100735
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 12, 2016
    ...separately, but as he concedes, the trial court did not have a duty to give the instruction without a request. (People v. Beagle (1972) 6 Cal.3d 441, 456, 99 Cal.Rptr. 313, 492 P.2d 1.) Second, he claims the prosecutor committed misconduct by arguing that the jury could indiscriminately use......
  • Parsley v. Superior Court, Riverside County
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 27, 1972
    ...660; People v. Stewart, 11 Cal.App.3d 242, 245-247, 89 Cal.Rptr. 707 [disapproved as to another point in People v. Beagle, 6 Cal.3d 441, 451-452, 99 Cal.Rptr. 313, 492 P.2d 1]; People v. Myers, 8 Cal.App.3d 268, 271-273, 87 Cal.Rptr. 246; People v. Kahre, 6 Cal.App.3d 680, 683-684, 86 Cal.R......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Trial defense of dui in California
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Drunk Driving Law - Volume 1-2 Volume 1
    • March 30, 2022
    ...the Court to determine what the effect will be if the defendant does not testify out of fear of being prejudiced. People v. Beagle (1972) 6 Cal.3d 441. In addition to this factor, the court must consider whether the prior(s) reflect adversely on defendant’s honesty or veracity, the remotene......
  • Character and habit
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Objections
    • March 29, 2023
    ...211 Cal. Rptr. 719. In exercising this discretion, the court should consider, among other things, the following [ People v. Beagle (1972) 6 Cal. 3d 441, 453, 99 Cal. Rptr. 313]: • Whether the prior conviction reflects on honesty and integrity. • Whether the prior conviction is near or remot......
  • Table of cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Objections
    • March 29, 2023
    ...4th 762, 59 Cal. Rptr. 2d 322, §§22:20, 22:50 Beagle v. Vasold (1966) 65 Cal. 2d 166, 53 Cal. Rptr. 129, §21:30 Beagle, People v. (1972) 6 Cal. 3d 441, 99 Cal. Rptr. 313, §11:10 Beard, Estate of (1999) 71 Cal. App. 4th 753, 84 Cal. Rptr. 2d 276, §4:90 Beardslee, People v. (1991) 53 Cal. 3d ......
  • Table of cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Drunk Driving Law - Volume 1-2 Appendices
    • March 30, 2022
    ...People v. Batts (2003) 30 Cal.4th 660, 666, §9:167 People v. Baumann (1985) 176 Cal.App.3d 67, 80, §14:30.1 People v. Beagle (1972) 6 Cal.3d 441, 453, §§9:28.9, 9:103.5 People v. Beardslee (1991) 53 Cal.3d 68, §9:104.5 People v. Bebbington (1968) 265 Cal.App.2d 709, §7:20.40 People v. Becht......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT