While a majority of the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed an Indianapolis man’s trespassing conviction, another judge warned in dissent that the ruling went against the tenet of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
“We are not in the business of horseshoes and hand grenades, where ‘close’ is good enough,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in arguing evidence was insufficient for conviction in Drakkar R. Willis v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1310-CR-854. “I am convinced the State has failed in its burden of proof and vote to reverse.”
Drakkar Willis was convicted of Class A misdemeanor criminal trespass after police arrested him in response to a security alarm that sounded at Watkins Family Recreation Center. An officer saw a black male suspect running from the business about 100 yards away, and another officer later arrested Willis.
In affirming the conviction, the panel majority judges, Terry Crone and John Baker, cited Meehan v. State, 7 N.E.3d 255 (Ind. 2014), in which DNA on a glove found at a crime scene was deemed sufficient to support a burglary conviction. The majority found physical location near a crime scene was of greater probative value than DNA on an item found at a crime scene.
“Before Meehan, we would have agreed with our dissenting colleague and reversed Willis’s conviction for insufficient evidence. But ‘we are bound to follow the precedent of our supreme court,” Crone wrote for the majority.
In reviewing the sufficiency standard in Meehan, “we conclude that a reasonable factfinder could infer that Willis was inside the Center and knowingly or intentionally interfered with the possession or use of its property without the owner’s consent. Willis’s argument to the contrary is merely a request to reweigh the evidence, which we may not do.”
Barnes rejected the majority’s interpretation of Meehan. “I do not believe that case demands or commands that the basic and longstanding tenets of the definition of ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ be altered. Others may disagree.”
“A bit of review is in order. An alarm sounds, police are dispatched. While nearing the building from which the alarm emanated, an officer sees a black man running in a direction away from the building, approximately 100 yards in the distance. This man was Willis, and he was convicted of trespass. There is no evidence tying Willis to the scene.
“… The entirety of the evidence upon which Willis was convicted was the fact that he was seen running at a distance of approximately 100 yards. I am not convinced that this evidence can be construed as Willis’s fleeing from the scene of the crime. Even though we are bound to give the State a reasonable inference here, it is well-settled Indiana law that flight from a crime scene, in and of itself, is not sufficient to sustain a conviction.”