Baker v. United States

Decision Date05 June 1968
Docket NumberNo. 19073.,19073.
Citation395 F.2d 368
PartiesAlvin Eugene BAKER, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

James L. Homire, Jr., St. Louis, Mo., for appellant.

Jim J. Shoemake, Asst. U. S. Atty., St. Louis, Mo., for appellee; Veryl L. Riddle, U. S. Atty., on the brief.

Before VOGEL, Senior Circuit Judge, and BLACKMUN and LAY, Circuit Judges.

VOGEL, Senior Circuit Judge.

Defendant-appellant herein was convicted by a jury of a violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 2312 and thereafter sentenced to confinement for a period of two years. He appeals from the judgment of conviction and raises the sole issue of sufficiency of the evidence to support the verdict of guilty.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, it discloses that on the evening of August 8, 1967, a 1967 Buick automobile parked at 2415 Louisiana Street, Little Rock, Arkansas, was stolen. That same evening, the appellant testified that he entered the stolen car at Fourteenth and Chester in Little Rock. James Rideout and Kenneth Pippins were in the car when appellant entered it, and immediately upon entering the car appellant apparently learned that it was stolen. Appellant was 18 years of age and without any money at the time he entered the car. Appellant rode in the car as it was driven directly from Little Rock, Arkansas, to St. Louis, Missouri, where, six hours later, he was let out at his home at 4355 Maryland, in St. Louis.

Appellant further testified that he did not drive the car, he bought no gas for the car, and he paid no expenses for the trip. There is no suggestion that appellant stole or helped steal the car and there is no evidence or suggestion that appellant entered into a conspiracy with the two other occupants of the car to steal a car for transportation to St. Louis. Thus, the only evidence, as testified to by appellant and by an FBI Agent, against the appellant was his admission that he rode in the stolen car.

The trial court instructed the jury that it could infer transportation of the car by possession1 and further instructed the jury as to what constitutes active or constructive possession.2 The government argues that the case may be affirmed under this theory. We disagree. There is no evidence suggesting even the barest elements of either actual or constructive possession of this car by appellant. As appropriately noted in another context in Barnes v. United States, 5 Cir., 1965, 341 F.2d 189, 191:

"* * * The effect of the charge in the instant case was to shift the burden of proof to the defendant to overcome a prima facie inference of guilt from the fact of possession, when possession had not been clearly established by the evidence. There was no direct testimony that defendant Barnes ever had possession of the vehicle, but only circumstantial evidence from which the jury could draw the conclusion that the defendant had been in possession."

It is obvious that here the jury would have to infer possession by appellant's mere presence in the car. The constitutional infirmities of such an inference have already been suggested in United States v. Romano, 1965, 382 U.S. 136, 141, 86 S.Ct. 279, 15 L.Ed.2d 210. Even accepting the appropriateness of this initial inference, however, to further infer that appellant transported or caused to be transported this car from the inference of his possession of the car involves such obvious speculation as to be totally inconsistent with the requirements of due process. We agree, to this extent, with the holding in Julian v. United States, 9 Cir., February 28, 1968, 391 F.2d 279, that "where convicting presumptions are projected on possession, the evidence of possession ought to be very clear to satisfy the test of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." See, also, Wheeler v. United States, 10 Cir., 1967, 382 F.2d 998, 1000. (Appellants "correctly contend that being a mere passenger in a stolen automobile moving in interstate commerce does not prove requisite possession so as to give rise to the presumption of guilty knowledge.")

The trial court also instructed the jury that they could return a guilty verdict if they found that appellant had aided and abetted in the transportation of this stolen car.3 These instructions properly required "participation" by the appellant in the crime because, as noted by Judge Learned Hand in discussing various definitions of aiding and abetting:

"It will be observed that all these definitions have nothing whatever to do with the probability that the forbidden result would follow upon the accessory\'s conduct; and that they all demand that he in some sort associate himself with the venture, that he participate in it as in something that he wishes to bring about, that he seek by his action to make it succeed. All the words used — even the most colorless, `abet\' — carry an implication of purposive attitude towards it." United States v. Peoni, 2 Cir., 1938, 100 F.2d 401, 402.

Accord: Nye & Nissen v. United States, 1949, 336 U.S. 613, 619-620, 69 S.Ct. 766, 770, 93 L.Ed. 919 (aiding and abetting is "a rule of criminal responsibility for acts which one assists another in performing."); Pereira v. United States, 1954, 347 U.S. 1, 10-11, 74 S.Ct. 358, 98 L.Ed. 435.

This court has had occasion to consider the question of sufficiency of the evidence to find a defendant guilty as a principal because he aided and abetted the criminal acts of another. In a case involving facts similar to the instant case, this court stated, in Johnson v. United States, 8 Cir., 1952, 195 F.2d 673, 675:

"* * * To be an aider and abetter it must appear that one so far participates in the commission of the crime charged as to be present, actually or constructively, for the purpose of assisting therein. * * * Generally speaking, to find one guilty as a principal on the ground that he was an aider and abetter it must be proven that he shared in the criminal intent of the principal and there must be a community of unlawful purpose at the time the act is committed. As the term `aiding and abetting\' implies, it assumes some participation in the criminal act in furtherance of the common design, either before or at the time the criminal act is committed. It implies some conduct of an affirmative nature and mere negative acquiescence is not sufficient."

See, also, Mays v. United States, 8 Cir., 1958, 261 F.2d 662, 664; Mack v. United States, 8 Cir., 1964, 326 F.2d 481, 484-486. Mere association is not sufficient to establish aiding and abetting, Ramirez v. United States, 9 Cir., 1966, 363 F.2d 33, 34; presence by itself is not sufficient, Hicks v. United States, 1893, 150 U.S. 442, 450, 14 S.Ct. 144, 37 L.Ed. 1137; United States v. Williams, 1951, 341 U.S. 58, 64, n. 4, 71 S.Ct. 595, 95 L.Ed. 747; United States v. Minieri, 2 Cir., 1962, 303 F.2d 550, 557; and it is also established that knowledge that a crime was to be committed and presence at the scene of the crime are generally not sufficient. Ramirez v. United States, supra; United States v. Garguilo, 2 Cir., 1962, 310 F.2d 249, 253.

This review of the law convinces us that the government has not sustained its burden of proving participation in transporting a car in interstate commerce when it proves only that someone has ridden in a stolen car as it was being so transported.

The government argues that Lambert v. United States, 5 Cir., 1958, 261 F.2d 799, is sufficient authority for the government's position here. There, the appellant waited at the corner of a parking lot as his friend entered the lot and stole a car in New Orleans. The two then drove to Birmingham, Alabama, where a service station operator testified that appellant was still a passenger in the car when the occupants thereof had the gasoline tank filled and drove off without paying. The crucial distinction in that case is that there appellant actually participated in the stealing of the car, possibly by acting as a lookout for his companion, or that the appellant there had formed a conspiracy with his companion to steal the car. Moreover, the appellant was still with his companion in the car the next day and remained in the car even after his companion had left a filling station without paying for the car's service. Thus Lambert involved not only association, but also evidence of participation in the illegal act. Here there is no evidence of participation.

Neither does the government's reliance on Garrison v. United States, 10 Cir., 1965, 353 F.2d 94, impress us because much more circumstantial evidence suggesting possession was presented in that case than is present here. In Garrison, defendant attempted to sell a tire from the car, defendant bought gasoline for the car, defendant directed his partner to drive the car when they left a motel, and defendant was later found in the front seat of the car while his partner was in the back seat. As the court there noted, this evidence "certainly shows some control by Garrison over the recently stolen car and was sufficient for the jury to infer that Garrison was at least an aider and abettor in the transportation of the car and, as such, had possession of it as his codefendant did." No such circumstantial evidence of control is present in the instant case.

A recent case in which the facts most closely parallel the facts here is Allison v. United States, 10 Cir., 1965, 348 F.2d 152. In Allison, a car was stolen in Springfield, Missouri, the night of July 11th. The morning of July 13th Allison was identified as occupying the right-hand front seat of the car which was parked in a field near Elk City, Kansas. This car was abandoned near Elk City and on the afternoon of July 13th another car was stolen in Elk City and found the next day in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Allison and another were arrested several blocks from that car and one of them had a jumper cable in his pocket. The court found this evidence insufficient to sustain the Dyer Act conviction of Allison...

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