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Law School Case Brief

People v. Mentzer - 163 Cal. App. 3d 482, 209 Cal. Rptr. 549 (1985)


When the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a criminal conviction is challenged on appeal, the court must review the whole record in the light most favorable to the judgment below to determine whether it discloses substantial evidence -- that is, evidence which is reasonable, credible, and of solid value -- such that a reasonable trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


Defendant William Mentzer, together with a friend, set fire to a mausoleum, resulting to damage amounting to $65,000. Defendant was charged with arson. The trial court found defendant guilty of attempted arson. On appeal, defendant contended that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction because the marble, plaster and concrete construction of the mausoleum could not be “burned” and “consumed,” and therefore, he cannot be guilty of attempted arson.


Was the evidence sufficient to convict defendant of attempted arson?




The appellate court  noted that a structure was considered consumed for purposes of § 455 if it was destroyed or devastated in whole or in part by fire. Testimony from police indicated that the fire ignited by defendant destroyed the mausoleum floor, and that the structure sustained significant fire damage. The court in turn concluded that there was sufficient evidence that the subject mausoleum was burned and consumed for purposes of § 455. Moreover, defendant's argument that the structure was nonflammable was found to lack any merit. As sufficient evidence supported defendant's conviction, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment.

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