Justices reverse trespass conviction of man near break-in scene

March 24, 2015

The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the trespassing conviction of a man arrested by Indianapolis police who saw him running in a field near the scene of a reported break-in.

Drakkar R. Willis was convicted in a bench trial of the Class A misdemeanor and sentenced to a year in prison with 45 days suspended to probation. Police responding to a burglar alarm at the Watkins Family Recreational Center saw Willis running about 100 yards away.

“It appears to us that the evidence in this case is insufficient to sustain Willis’ conviction for criminal trespass,” Justice Robert Rucker wrote for the court in a five-page opinion in Drakkar R. Willis v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1410-CR-617. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals previously affirmed Willis’ conviction. Justices aligned with Judge Michael Barnes’ dissent in which he wrote, “We are not in the business of horseshoes and hand grenades, where ‘close’ is good enough.”

Rucker wrote there was no evidence in the record establishing that Willis had been in the recreational center, and there were no circumstances presented at trial raising a reasonable inference of guilt.

“In sum, at best the record shows that Willis was running in a field near a recreation center sometime after the burglar alarm was activated. To be sure this conduct may have been considered suspicious, and perhaps Willis may even have had the opportunity to interfere with the possession and use of the recreation center without the owner’s consent. But '[a] reasonable inference of guilt must be more than a mere suspicion, conjecture, conclusion, guess, opportunity, or scintilla.’ ... An inference cannot be based upon evidence which is uncertain or speculative or which raises merely a conjecture or possibility.'”



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