Implied Malice Theory

Aug 1, 2011

In People v. Canizalez, the Second Appellate District affirmed judgment on the convictions for Robert Canizalez and Martin Morones. On a busy city street, the two defendants engaged in a street drag race that ended in a collision with another car. The other car immediately burst into flames, killing the occupants, whom were a mother and her two young children.

Both Canizalez and Morones appealed, believing there was an insufficient amount of evidence supporting the prosecution’s argument for implied malice. The defendants argued that the elements of the incident did not prove they were aware of the danger involved in their actions and it also did not show they were lacking a conscious regard for life. The court of appeals disagreed, and affirmed judgment from the lower court.

Contrary to the defendants’ argument for appeal, the court of appeals provided an overwhelming amount of evidence that supported the implied malice theory. For instance, Canizalez and Morones were well aware of the danger from racing in the streets because they are long time residents of the neighborhood where the incident occurred and are familiar with its traffic conditions. Hours before the collision, witnesses saw Canizalez driving recklessly in the neighborhood, speeding and making sharp U-turns. Both defendants have participated in street drag racing and have adapted their cars to engage in that type of car racing. Moreover, they tried to eliminate evidence that showed they were involved in the crash by pushing one of the cars away and quickly leaving the scene. Canizalez and Morones did not attempt to help the victims or even inquire about their condition. With these given facts, the court of appeals found their actions to be in support of the implied malice theory, rejecting the defendant’s argument.

-California Court of Appeals, 2nd Appellate District, 2nd Div., July 20,2011; B218515