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People v. Billa

Supreme Court of California
79 P.3d 542 (2003)


Facts

Vikram Gill Billa (defendant), Manoj Bhardwaj, and a third person conspired to commit insurance fraud by burning Billa’s truck and collecting the insurance proceeds. Billa drove his truck down a gravel road, and the group set the truck on fire using kerosene or diesel fuel. At some point, unbeknownst to the group, the fuel saturated Bhardwaj’s clothes. During the burning of the truck, Bhardwaj caught fire and later died from his burns. Billa was convicted of (1) second degree murder under California Penal Code § 187 and § 189, (2) making a false insurance claim, and (3) arson causing great bodily injury. The felony-murder rule was the only ground presented to support the murder charge. The court of appeals affirmed Billa’s conviction. Billa appealed to the Supreme Court of California on the ground that the felony-murder rule was inapplicable to the facts of his case.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Chin, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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