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People v. Acosta

California Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate District
284 Cal. Rptr. 117 (1991)


Facts

Police officers Salceda and Francis approached Acosta (defendant) who was sitting in a stolen vehicle parked on the street. After the officers identified themselves, Acosta sped away, leading the officers and others on a reckless 48-mile chase throughout Orange County, California. Acosta ran stop signs and red lights and drove the wrong way on streets. Police helicopters from Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach assisted the ground chase by tracking Acosta’s movements from the air. After some improper maneuvering from the Costa Mesa helicopter and the Newport Beach helicopter, the two collided and fell to the ground killing three occupants in the Costa Mesa helicopter. Acosta was indicted on three counts of second-degree murder of the helicopter occupants. At trial, Menzies Turner, a retired FAA investigator, testified as an expert and concluded that the Costa Mesa helicopter pilot violated several Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. Additionally, Turner could not explain the erratic movement exhibited by the Costa Mesa helicopter and testified that he had never heard of a midair collision between two police helicopters involved in tracking a ground pursuit. Acosta was convicted on three counts of second-degree murder and he appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence that his conduct was the proximate cause of the deaths and insufficient evidence of malice.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Wallin, J.)

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Dissent (Crosby, J.)

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