Incompetent arsonists fail four times to burn down competitors liquor store. IAC claim.

Defendant Munir Mtanews Hawara owned a liquor store. He hired one Willis Simmons to burn down a rival liquor store. Simmons tried to burn it down once, but failed. Simmons then subcontracted the job to one Randy Ramirez. Ramirez tried to burn down the rival store three times, but he, too, failed. The scheme was exposed when Simmons’s sister contacted police.

A jury found defendant guilty on four counts of arson of a structure. (Pen. Code, § 451, subd. (c).) On all four counts, state of emergency enhancements were found true. (Pen. Code, § 454, subd. (a)(2).) On two counts, accelerant device enhancements were found true. (Pen. Code, § 451.1, subd. (a)(5).) Defendant was sentenced to 11 years 8 months in prison, along with the usual fines, fees, and ancillary orders.

Defendant contends, among other things, that the prosecutor improperly crossexamined his character witnesses by asking them if it would change their opinion if they “knew” or “learned” about his commission of the crimes; he maintains that the only correct form for this type of cross-examination is to ask if it would change their opinion if they “heard” about his commission of the crimes. He also contends that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to the improper cross-examination.

In the published portion of this opinion, we hold that a defense character witness who testifies based on his or her own opinion — rather than based solely on the defendant’s reputation — can be asked on cross-examination if he or she knows about the defendant’s bad acts. Alternatively, we will hold that any error was harmless, because defendant’s commission of the crimes was amply shown by other evidence.

In the unpublished portion of this opinion, we conclude that defendant has not shown any other error. Hence, we will affirm.


Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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