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For purposes of the arson statutes, a fixture is considered part of the "structure." To qualify as a fixture, the property item must be annexed to the structure and must have become essential to the ordinary and convenient use of the property to which it was annexed. A thing is deemed affixed to a building when it is permanently attached as by means of cement, plaster, nails, bolts, or screws. Whether an item has lost its character as personal property and has become a fixture is primarily a question of fact to be determined by the evidence.
On the evening of May 1, 2009, Reed had a confrontation with the security guard of a nightclub. During the incident, Reed shot the security guard, who survived. Several days later, the security guard identified Reed from a photographic lineup. Shortly after, police officers went to the apartment where Reed was living with his girlfriend, Melissa Davis. After Davis and Reed's daughter complied with the officers' orders to leave the apartment, Reed refused to exit the apartment. As officers were standing outside the apartment, a ball of fire came toward the door and exploded. Smoke came out of the apartment, and the apartment's fire alarm and sprinkler system were activated. Officers arrested Reed when he finally emerged from the apartment about 45 minutes later. Later that day, Timothy Williams, an investigation supervisor for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection went to the apartment to investigate. He noticed the carpet was saturated with water from the sprinkler system. Based on his investigation, he concluded that Reed intentionally set eight to nine separate fires in the apartment. Notably, the damage were mostly on discrete properties, the carpet, and the exterior surface of a bedroom door. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the attempted murder count, and the court declared a mistrial on that count and later dismissed the count. But the jury found Reed guilty on the remaining three counts: assault with a firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and arson of an inhabited structure in violation of section 451(b) (Count 4).
Was there sufficient evidence supporting Reed’s arson conviction?
The evidence at trial showed the carpet was burned in two places: in a small area in the hallway in front of the bathroom and a slightly larger area in the dining room. Although the floor underneath the carpet was not burned, the photographs show the carpet and the carpet padding were burned through to the floor. Further, although there was no specific testimony as to how the carpet was affixed to the floor or even whether the carpet was a "wall-to-wall" type covering, based on the admitted photographs, the carpet appears to be attached to the floor and looks to be wall-to-wall. Reed's girlfriend confirmed that the carpet was in the apartment when she moved into the residence. She also said the landlord replaced the burned carpet, and her renter's insurance covered the cost of the replacement. Based on this evidence, the jury had a sufficient basis to conclude the carpet was permanently affixed to the floor, and that the carpet had become a permanent and integral part of the realty. Thus, the burning of the carpet supported the section 451(b) arson conviction.