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Evidence supported inference defendant didn’t start fire to keep himself warm

State v. Greg Douglas Griswold, 2020AP1598, District 4, 3/4/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Griswold was convicted of violating § 26.12(5)(b) by starting a fire in an “extensive forest protection area” without a permit. The statute excepts fires started for warmth, and Griswold claimed that’s what he was doing. When evidence supports more than one reasonable inference, the reviewing court accepts the inference drawn by the trier of fact, see, e.g., State v. Poellinger, 153 Wis. 2d 493, 504, 451 N.W.2d 752 (1990), and under that standard the trial court reasonably rejected Griswold’s defense.

¶9     …. First, the court reasonably credited the testimony from [Fire Department] Chief Hackl that, on the night of the fire, Griswold “never said anything about warming by [the fire]” and instead said he started the fire “to get rid of some of the wood so he didn’t have to take it to the town dump.” From this testimony, the circuit court inferred that the real reason Griswold started the fire was to save himself a trip to the dump, and that he only testified about warming after he learned about the warming exception in the statute. Second, the court also inferred that Griswold should not have needed a fire to stay warm at 8:00 p.m. in early May while performing manual labor. Even if the court could have drawn other inferences, I will accept these reasonable inferences drawn by the circuit court. ….

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