State v. Aziz, WD

Decision Date08 February 1983
Docket NumberNo. WD,WD
Citation647 S.W.2d 586
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Wasim AZIZ, Defendant-Appellant. 33195.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Joseph H. Locascio, Sp. Asst. Public Defender, Kansas City, for defendant-appellant.

John Ashcroft, Atty. Gen., Jay A. Daugherty, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, for plaintiff-respondent.


DIXON, Judge.

Defendant appeals his conviction by a jury of second degree burglary and sentence of one year. The determinative issue, properly preserved, is the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction upon the state's submission and theory of circumstantial evidence.

In the early morning hours of April 9, 1981, several police officers were dispatched to the Ben Casey Sundry store in Kansas City. The officers observed that the store's front door was ajar and the padlock was missing. Suspecting that the burglar or burglars might still be inside the store, one of the policemen radioed for a "canine officer" to assist in a search of the building. The other officer peered through a window and observed a black male standing inside the store. The man looked back at the officer, and the two shared eye contact for thirty seconds. The officer later positively identified the man he saw inside as Monir Aziz. The lights were on in the back of the store where Monir stood. The officer saw only Monir in the store and saw only one man leave the store through a door in the back. No evidence places the defendant, Wasim Aziz, in the store.

The Ben Casey Sundry store, Blackstone Hotel, and Pro Automatic Transmission Company all are located in the same building, Ben Casey's being the southernmost business, with the hotel north of it, and Pro Automatic occupying the northernmost space. A hallway connects Ben Casey's and the hotel, but access to the hallway from Ben Casey's is blocked by a "glass encased" door, which the owner of Ben Casey's kept locked from the inside of his store. The "back door" to Ben Casey's was not available for public egress and ingress. Facing north as one would if one were to leave Ben Casey's through the back door, there are two doors in the hallway between the sundry store and the hotel--the one on the right leads into a small restroom available to the hotel's patrons. The one on the left was a swinging hall door that led down some stairs to the basement of the Blackstone Hotel. There were no signs or any type of obstruction that would warn against public access to the basement. At one end of the basement there was a hole in the ceiling, described as an "old coal chute." By climbing up through the hole one could gain access to the Pro Automatic Transmission Co. office.

Very soon after the officer observed Monir in the Ben Casey store Officer Aufner arrived on the scene with his police dog, Fritz. They entered Ben Casey's through the front door, and Officer Aufner shouted the standard warning, "Police officer, come out or I am going to turn the dog loose." When the only response was noise from the back of the store, Fritz was set loose. The officer followed him to the back door, which was still locked but contained a jagged hole in the glass sufficiently large for Fritz and Aufner to crawl through.

Aufner followed Fritz through the door and into the hall, then to the left down the stairs into the basement, where he yelled, "Police, hold it." Proceeding after the barking dog across the basement, Officer Aufner observed two pairs of legs scrambling up through the hole that led into the transmission shop. He grabbed one leg of each pair, but when he lost his grip on one concentrated his efforts on the other. Wasim Aziz was pulled down out of the hole, wrestled to the floor, and arrested. Monir Aziz was soon thereafter discovered in a truck in the transmission shop, where he had been tracked by the dog.

Fingerprints lifted from liquor bottles, which had been collected in bags and sacks left near Ben Casey's front door, all were identified as belonging to Monir Aziz. No prints belonging to Wasim were identified in the store. Wasim Aziz offered no evidence in his defense. Monir Aziz did not testify.

The state's case was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. Its theory, as submitted in the instructions and explicated in closing argument, was that since Wasim, who shared the uncommon last name of Aziz with the implicated burglar, Monir, had been apprehended while fleeing with Monir in the vicinity of the burglary, then Wasim must have aided Monir in the perpetration of the burglary. That theory, since it does look entirely to circumstantial evidence for support, must be based on facts and circumstances consistent with each other and with the hypothesis of defendant's guilt, inconsistent with his innocence, and excluding every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. State v. Franco, 544 S.W.2d 533 (Mo. banc 1976), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 957, 97 S.Ct. 2682, 53 L.Ed.2d 275 (1977). The state failed to adduce substantial evidence on which the jury could have based a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the judgment is reversed. State v. Prier, 634 S.W.2d 197 (Mo. banc 1982); State v. Brown, 462 S.W.2d 766 (Mo.1971); State v. Cheatham, 458 S.W.2d 336 (Mo.1970); State v. Irby, 423 S.W.2d 800 (Mo.1968); State v. Dudley, 617 S.W.2d 637 (Mo.App.1981); State v. Miller, 536 S.W.2d 524 (Mo.App.1976).

In analyzing sufficiency of evidence cases, courts look for recurring indicia of guilt, such as presence at the scene and opportunity to commit the offense, flight, possession of contraband or weapons, close association with a known perpetrator, and active or affirmative participation in the offense. It is uniformly held that proof of one factor, save of course active or affirmative participation, is insufficient evidence on which to base a guilty verdict. State v. Irby, 423 S.W.2d at 803 (presence in the vicinity plus opportunity to commit the crime not enough to sustain state's burden); State v. Cox, 508 S.W.2d 716, 721 (Mo.App.1974) (while flight is a circumstance to be considered, flight alone is not sufficient to sustain a conviction); State v. Cheatham, 458 S.W.2d at 339 (association alone does not permit inference of guilt). Possession of recently stolen property may create an inference of guilt, but that inference does not overcome an accused's presumption of innocence. State v. Lewis, 482 S.W.2d 436, 437 (Mo.1972).

When the state's case rests exclusively on circumstantial evidence, there must be some evidence of active participation in the commission of the crime, although that requirement may be satisfied by reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence. State v. Arnold, 566 S.W.2d 185 (Mo. banc 1978). Even in combination, certain of these factors are said to be insufficient as a matter of law to overcome the defendant's presumption of innocence. State v. Arnold, supra at 189 (presence coupled with opportunity or flight insufficient); State v. Keller, 471 S.W.2d 196, 199 (Mo.1971) (suspicious circumstances plus association over a day later insufficient); State v. Castaldi, 386 S.W.2d 392, 395 (Mo.1965) (presence, opportunity, suspicious...

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6 cases
  • State v. Wade, s. 14354
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • April 30, 1986
    ...113 (Mo.App.1984), stealing over $150; State v. White, 665 S.W.2d 359 (Mo.App.1984), burglary in the second degree; and State v. Aziz, 647 S.W.2d 586 (Mo.App.1983), second degree burglary. We have studied each of those cases, mindful that, as said in Aziz: "Of course, while the case law is ......
  • State v. Craghead, 55380
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • September 19, 1989 commit the offense, flight, possession of contraband and close association with a known perpetrator. See, e.g., State v. Aziz, 647 S.W.2d 586, 588 (Mo.App.1983). But, at times, a combination of certain of these facts have been held insufficient to support guilt, Id., and a short-hand pri......
  • State v. Lewis, 46474
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 22, 1984 a time prior to arrest. Presence at the scene and possession of stolen property can suffice to show guilt. See, State v. Aziz, 647 S.W.2d 586, 588-90 (Mo.App.1983); State v. Miller, 536 S.W.2d 524, 527-28 (Mo.App.1976); and State v. Heitman, 473 S.W.2d 722, 725-27 Judgment affirmed. PUDL......
  • State v. Harrison, 49225
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • August 13, 1985 convict the appellant. We affirm the decision of the trial court. CARL R. GAERTNER and KAROHL, JJ., concur. 1 State v. Aziz, 647 S.W.2d 586 (Mo.App.1983); State v. Keller, 471 S.W.2d 196 (Mo.1971); State v. Castaldi, 386 S.W.2d 392 (Mo.1965); State v. Dudley, 617 S.W.2d 637 ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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