A Burbank birthday celebration took an unexpected turn when a guest was shot and killed. According to reports, 21-year-old Christian Guevara got into a dispute with two men on the front lawn of a Burbank home around 2:30 in the morning. One of the men fired a gun during the struggle and shot Guevara in the stomach. Party guests did not call 911 but did transport him to a local hospital. He was transferred to a trauma center but ultimately died from the gunshot wound.
Two men, Robert Stout and Jose Valdivieso, both 19, were arrested in connection with the murder. Police claim that Stout confessed to pulling the trigger and killing Guevara. Valdivieso is believed to have been an accessory to the murder.
Murder vs. Accessory to Murder
How can two people be arrested for murder if only one person pulled the trigger? Both men may not be charged with murder. Instead, one will face murder charges, while the other will face charges for being an accessory to the murder.
Murder, as defined in Penal Code 187 PC, is the “unlawful killing of another person with malice aforethought.” Malice aforethought doesn’t mean that a murder has to be planned. Rather, it’s a state of mind that a defendant must have to be guilty of the crime.
There are two types of malice aforethought: express and implied. Express malice means that the defendant “unlawfully intended to kill” the other person. Implied malice means that the defendant intentionally committed an act that was dangerous while knowing that the consequences could be deadly.
Murder charges are broken down into two different categories: first and second degree.
First-degree murder is one of the most serious crimes a person can commit. A defendant can be charged with first-degree murder if the act is:
- Willful, deliberate, and premeditated
- A result of torture
- Committed after lying in wait, or
- Carried out with a destructive device or explosive.
Second-degree murder is a catch-all for all other intentional homicides.
Accessory to Murder
Just because you don’t pull the trigger doesn’t mean that you can’t face consequences for your involvement in an act of murder. Under Penal Code 31 PC, it is illegal to aid and abet a crime. You can be charged with aiding and abetting a murder if you “advise and encourage its commission.” In other words, aiding and abetting means that you know that someone intends to commit a crime and help by aiding, facilitating, promoting, encouraging, or instigating the offense.
In the Burbank murder case, one man pulled the trigger. The other man is believed to have encouraged the act of murder in some way. As a result, they can both be criminally liable.
Accessories Can Face the Same Penalties For Murder
Is it better to be an accessory to murder, rather than committing the murder itself? Not really. The person who commits a murder and the person who aids and abets that murder can face the same penalties. If the man who pulled trigger faces life behind bars, the man who instigated or encouraged the crime can also face life behind bars.
Why are the penalties the same? California law is designed to discourage anyone from participating in a crime, even in an advisory role.
Defending Murder Charges in Los Angeles
The two men have not been formally charged for their involvement in the Burbank murder. If they are, they will have the opportunity to defend themselves in court. The best thing they can do is hire experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys to handle their respective cases. Their attorneys will review the details of their cases and determine the most appropriate defenses.
Defenses that may be helpful in fighting murder charges include:
- Lack of malice aforethought
- Mistaken identity
- False accusation
- Self-defense, or
- Violation of Constitutional rights.
The stronger their defense arguments, the tougher it will be for the state to satisfy its burden of proof.