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Asserting 5th Amendment in Civil Action Creates Inference of Guilt

Castro v. Ballesteros-Suarez, 222 Ariz. 48, 213 P.3d 197 (App. Div. I, June 18, 2009)

ASSERTION OF 5TH AMENDMENT IN CIVIL ACTION CREATES INFERENCE OF GUILT AND ARIZONA'S SLAYER STATUTE BARS SPOUSE RECOVERING LIFE INSURANCE BENEFITS WHERE IT IS FOUND SPOUSE KILLED DECEDENT

Adolfo Suarez was shot to death in his home and it was ruled a homicide. His widow made a claim against two life insurance policies on Adolfo. Adolfo's personal representative opposed this based upon Arizona's Slayer Statute (ARS sec. 14-2803).

The Arizona Court of Appeals held that the "plain language of [the statute] demonstrates that the Arizona Legislature intended to prevent a person who feloniously and intentionally kills another from receiving any property belonging to his victim." This would include life insurance benefits.

The court further found that the widow's assertion of the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination at her deposition created a permissible inference that she did in fact feloniously kill her husband. This along with the police officer's testimony, the forged beneficiary designation and the evidence the widow attempted to bribe her husband's sister to help her collect the insurance all supported the trial court's determination that the widow was barred from recovering the life insurance benefits under the Slayer Statute.

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