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§ 943.02, Arson – Sufficiency of Evidence

State v. Dale H. Chu, 2002 WI App, PFR filed 4/23/02
For Chu: Andrew Shaw

Issue/Holding: Evidence held sufficient, despite disagreement of experts on how fire was started; the jury was required to determine whether defendant intentionally started the fire, not specifically how it was set.

¶44      Chu may instead be arguing that the verdicts should be overturned because the State’s experts could not agree on the precise method of starting the fire, and because their testimony conflicted with Chu’s alleged admissions about how he started the fire.  One of the State’s experts, Reece, testified that natural combustibles were used to start the fire.  Another expert, Hughes, testified that dresses were doused with something and lit with a match, although he admitted that there was no physical evidence that any kind of flammable liquid was used.  Chu also notes that Weiss gave conflicting testimony about what Chu allegedly told her about the specific method of starting the fire.  Additionally, Wales testified that Chu said a rag was lit after it was placed in a can of paint thinner or ether paint.

¶45      We reject Chu’s argument because the jury was required to determine whether the fire was intentionally set – not specifically how it was set.  See WI JI-Criminal 1405 and 1410.  Here, the jury could find that the fire was intentionally set even if the witnesses disagreed precisely how the fire was intentionally set.  See State v. Toy, 125 Wis. 2d 216, 222, 371 N.W.2d 386 (Ct. App. 1985) (The jury draws reasonable inferences from testimony, and it may choose to believe part of one witness’s testimony and part of another’s, even though the witnesses, as a whole, are inconsistent.).

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