![if gte IE 9]><![endif]><![if gte IE 9]><![endif]><![if gte IE 9]><![endif]>
Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
A successful arson prosecution requires proof that a defendant has maliciously and willfully burned the dwelling house of another. The crime of arson is consummated by the burning of any, the smallest part of a house, and it is burned within the common law definition of the offense when it is charred, that is, when the wood is reduced to coal and its identity changed, but not when merely scorched or discolored by heat.
Defendant Ronnie Ray Oxendine was charged with arson, the unlawful burning of a building, and willful and wanton injury to real property. The jury found defendant guilty of arson and felonious burning of a building. He was sentenced to suffer a life sentence for his conviction of arson. Defendant challenged a judgment imposing a life sentence and argued five assignments of error which he believed require either a reversal of his arson conviction or a new trial. Defendant first contended that the trial court erred in overruling his motion to dismiss the arson charge. Next, defendant contended that the trial court should have instructed upon the lesser included offense of attempted arson. Also, he argued that the trial court's final charge to the jury was deficient in two other respects: the omission of a legal definition of burning and the absence of a direct admonishment that the burning of personal property within the dwelling did not constitute arson. Lastly, defendant contended that the trial court erred in allowing the admission of his custodial statement.
Were defendant’s convictions proper?
On appeal, the court affirmed. The court held that the plaintiff State's evidence was sufficient to authorize a reasonable conclusion that the building in question had been burned. The evidence showed that the dwelling itself, and not merely something in it had been burned. Moreover, the evidence disclosed that the wallpaper in the dwelling had been burned, which competently substantiated the charring element of arson. The court also found that the plaintiff State's witnesses were not required to use the specific legal term "charred" in describing the structural damage caused by the unlawful fire. Further, the court ruled that the trial court was not required to instruct upon the lesser-included offense of attempted arson. Once the jury believed beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant maliciously and willfully perpetrated the unlawful incendiary deeds, it could only properly return a verdict of guilty of arson. Thus, the court concluded that the trial court correctly characterized and stressed the type of property that had to be burned by the fire to constitute arson. The jury could not have been misled or confused. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for arson.