Thursday, July 17, 2014
C.A. Rejects Duress Claim in Felony-Murder Case
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A man convicted of second degree murder in the killing of his accomplice to a Humboldt County marijuana robbery was not entitled to a duress instruction, the First District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Div. Four affirmed Brian Fiore’s conviction and sentence of 68 years, eight months to life in prison for the murder of David Fields and additional offenses, including two counts of attempted murder, two counts of robbery, and one count of evading an officer.
Fiore and Fields drove to purchase a large quantity of marijuana in Fiore’s vehicle, prosecutors said. Fields took the marijuana at gunpoint, and the two fled the scene with Fiore driving the vehicle.
During an ensuing high speed chase, Fields shot at police and threatened to shoot Fiore if he did not continue to drive, Fiore claimed. The vehicle drove over the edge of the road, and crashed.
Police found both men shot in the head, and Fields dead. They concluded that Fiore had shot Fields and then shot himself.
The defense contended that Fiore had no intent of using a weapon but was under duress – that he was forced to flee the scene by Fields, who owned the weapons.
Humboldt Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson instructed the jury on duress as a defense to robbery, but not as to murder. On appeal, the defense argued that the latter instruction should have been given as well.
Justice James Humes, writing for the Court of Appeal, said no such instruction was required because by finding Fiore guilty, the jury necessarily found that the defendant, while fleeing from the scene of the robbery, formed the intent to “join” in the escape and transportation of the stolen goods and therefore intended to commit the robbery.
The defense argument, Humes said, incorrectly assumed that Fiore would not be guilty of felony murder if the jury found that he no longer wanted to participate in the robbery at the time he killed Fields. Once the jury concluded that Fiore committed robbery, his liability for felony murder was unaffected by whether he was still a willing participant in the robbery at the time of the killing, the justice explained.
The case is People v Fiore, A136116.
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