COA: Angry shopper wrongly convicted of resisting

A Kroger shopper upset by the store’s refusal to cash her check without ID became disorderly and refused to leave, but the evidence against her did not support her conviction of resisting law enforcement, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

Laperria Marie Brooks was convicted of that Class A misdemeanor count as well as Class A misdemeanor criminal trespass and Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct after a bench trial in Marion Superior Court on March 9. According to the record, Brooks became disruptive and started yelling, drawing the attention of other customers, when a manager declined to process her check on July 19, 2017.

Indianapolis police were called and escorted Brooks from the store, but she refused to leave the parking lot. She was warned she would be arrested for trespassing, but when an officer attempted to handcuff her, Brooks “tensed up and wouldn’t give (the officer) her arms,” according to the narrative in Laperria Marie Brooks v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-759. After her conviction, Brooks was sentenced to a year of probation, minus four days of credit for time served.

But an appellate panel reversed Brooks’ resisting conviction — the only charge she appealed – finding the state could not show that Brooks employed “strength, power, or violence” against arresting officers.

“There is no specific testimony to even suggest that Officer (Jonathon) Willey had to use force to execute the arrest. There was no movement or threatening gesture made in the direction of Officer Willey. Indeed, Officer Willey was specifically asked whether or not Brooks used force to get away, and he did not answer in the affirmative,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote for the panel.

“The State argues that Brooks ‘used physical force against the officer to prevent the officer from handcuffing her…’,” Pyle wrote. “As detailed above, the facts supporting this argument are not found within the record.

Citing Graham v. State, 903 N.E.2d 964 (Ind. 2009), the panel concluded in vacating the resisting conviction that, “The evidence ‘demonstrates obnoxious disrespect for authority, but not the use of any force’ by Brooks.”

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