State v. Chase, 53220

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Citation444 S.W.2d 398
Docket NumberNo. 53220,53220
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Billy Gene CHASE, Appellant.
Decision Date09 June 1969

Norman H. Anderson, Atty. Gen., Howard L. McFadden, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, Mo., for respondent.

Shaw, Hanks & Bornschein, L. L. Bornschein, Clayton, Mo., for appellant.


The defendant was convicted of stealing a ring valued at more than $50. Sections 560.156 and 560.161, RSMo 1959, V.A.M.S. The jury assessed his punishment at two years in the custody of the Department of Corrections. The issues presented by the defendant on appeal relate to the sufficiency of the evidence.

On December 27, 1963, shortly before 5 p.m., the defendant accompanied by a woman and another man, 'a short, chunky colored man', entered West's Jewelry Store in Fulton which was owned and operated by Claud West. The store was about 18 feet long and 16 feet wide, with showcase counters on each side and an aisle in the middle. Jewelry was shown on top of the cases or counters and customers stood while they were viewing it. The defendant asked to see some men's quarter carat diamond rings. Mr. West brought out men's rings and put them on top of the showcases. The defendant went to the door and pointed to a ring in the window. Mr. West got one or two out of the window, the rest he got out of a showcase. As he recalled, there were 'three in the box and maybe two or three in a tray.' The tray also contained ring mountings without stones.

The defendant looked at the rings, picked up one, looked at it, shook his head and said it was high. He put that ring back in the tray; it was originally in a box. The woman and other man also stood along the counter and looked at the rings, but the defendant was the only person Mr. West saw handle anything although the others could have. Mr. West also showed the defendant some unset diamonds which he brought from a table near the watch counter. He displayed the diamonds under a light and explained the difference in grade and the reason for the fluctuation in prices. While he was doing this, the woman and other man were looking around and also looking at the diamonds. He did not know what they were doing all of the time. The defendant finally walked over towards the door and one of them said, 'Let's go.' The defendant and his companions were in the store not over ten minutes.

The rings had remained on top of the showcase all the time the defendant and his companions were in the store. After they left, Mr. West discovered that two of his rings were missing. One of the boxes had a ring in it that did not belong to him; he referred to it as 'a phony ring'. Mr. West called the local authorities. A deputy sheriff learned that a 1961 Thunderbird with a Missouri license numbered KZ0872 had been in the vicinity of the jewlry store at the time in question. The license had been issued to defendant. A warrant for defendant was issued and a pickup order sent to the police in St. Louis.

Mr. West further testified the defendant was the only one that did any talking while in his store. Although the woman may have made some remark, the other man did not say a word. This other man did not ask to see the rings and did not pick them up and handle them. The woman did not pick them up or handle them. The only person who Mr. West saw handle anything in his store was the defendant.

On January 10, 1964, a St. Louis police officer, James Weber, who was acquainted with defendant and knew about the arrest warrant and pickup order, arrested defendant ant around 2:25 p.m. at the intersection of Seventh and Olive Streets in St. Louis. When halted by Weber, the defendant was riding in the left rear seat of his 1961 Thunderbird. A woman was sitting in the back seat with the defendant. The car was being driven by a second man and another woman was sitting in the right front seat.

When Officer Weber stopped the car, he opened the door on the right-hand side, ordered defendant out of the vehicle and informed him he was under arrest. Officer Weber was assisted by another St. Louis policeman, Officer Tindall, who was on duty nearby. The officers searched defendant alongside his car for a weapon, found none, and then ordered him into the patrol car. They also ordered the driver of the Thunderbird out of the car and searched him for a weapon but found none. The women were not searched. The driver was told to get back in the defendant's car and instructed to drive it to police headquarters. Officers Weber and Tindall followed it in the patrol car taking the defendant with them.

Police headquarters were at Twelfth and Clark which was seven or eight blocks from the scene of the arrest. Upon arriving there, both cars were placed on the parking lot at the rear of the building. The defendant was taken inside by Officers Weber and Tindall. The defendant's companions waited on the parking lot. The defendant was kept in the police station. When Officer Weber returned to the parking lot, the defendant's three companions were standing alongside the defendant's automobile. Officer Weber searched the defendant's Thunderbird and found a yellow metal man's ring with five white stones in a white metal setting on the floor 'approximately where the defendant was sitting' in plain view. This ring was identified by Mr. West as one of the missing rings valued at $100. Officer Weber testified it was approximately 10 to 15 minutes from the time defendant was apprehended on Olive Street until the car was searched on the police lot.

Defendant's three companions were not arrested. The record is silent as to their identity and whether any of them were with the defendant in Fulton. The defendant offered no evidence.

In determining the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case after a verdict of guilty, the court accepts as true all evidence in the record tending to prove the defendant's guilt, whether such evidence is circumstantial or direct in nature, together with all favorable inferences that can reasonably be drawn therefrom and disregards all contrary evidence and inferences. State v. Webb, Mo., 423 S.W.2d 795, 799(6); State v. McClinton, Mo., 418 S.W.2d 55, 57(2); State v. McGlathery, Mo., 412 S.W.2d 445, 447(1); State v. Morris, Mo., 307 S.W.2d 667, 688(1); State v. Bayless, 362 Mo. 109, 240 S.W.2d 114, 118--119(1). The Bayless case states that 'in ruling the issue presented we are required to view the whole evidence in a light most favorable to the State.'

The first of defendant's 'POINTS' is the general statement that: 'The State offered no direct nor positive evidence establishing the charge of 'Stealing' as to this Defendant, there being no positive identification of the property alleged stolen (State Exhibit 2).' Exhibit 2 is the ring found in the defendant's Thunderbird when the defendant was arrested in St. Louis. The evidence traces the custody of the ring from the time it was discovered in the automobile until it was offered in evidence at the trial. The ring had an unusual number and arrangement of stones and bore the mark of the manufacturer but not of the West Jewelry Store. Mr. West Testified that it was the ring which disappeared from his store on December 27, 1963, although he could not say that no other similar rings existed. The proof that exhibit 2 was in fact the stolen ring is also bolstered by the fact that it was found in the automobile of the defendant who was present in the Fulton jewelry store when the ring disappeared. Any fact, including criminal agency of the defendant and the identity of the property stolen, may be proved by circumstantial evidence. State v. Brewer, Mo., 325 S.W.2d 16, 20(11). The ring was sufficiently identified and was properly admitted in evidence. State v. McCormack, Mo., 263 S.W.2d 344, 346(3); State v. Gyngard, Mo., 333 S.W.2d 73, 79(10), 90 A.L.R.2d 639; State v. Page, Mo.App., 192 S.W.2d 577, 578(3). The defendant's contention is denied.

Following this initial statement are four paragraphs in the nature of statements of position which hardly satisfy S.Ct.Rule 83.05(a) (3), V.A.M.R., but we will undertake to consider them. The defendant asserts the fact that he was present at the time the property was stolen is insufficient to support his conviction of its theft, citing State v. Favell, Mo.App., 411 S.W.2d 245. In Favell the evidence showed that the defendant was seen standing in front of an office from which a typewriter was stolen and that he was present with three other men who were arrested emerging from an alley with an enclosed cardboard box containing a typewriter. This evidence was held insufficient to support the defendant's conviction in the absence of showing that he had entered the office, that he saw or could have seen the typewriter inside or a showing of how long the office was unoccupied. The evidence is much stronger in the case at bar. The defendant was shown to be in the jewelry store at the time the ring was stolen, he handled at least one of the rings and was in a position to have committed the theft and the ring was found in his automobile about ten days later. The Favell case is not persuasive on the facts of this case.

The remaining contentions are so intermingled and uncertainly stated that it is difficult to understand precisely what reasons are being urged. For instance, one of the statements is that possession of recently stolen property 'is not sufficient evidence of ownership to overcome the presumption of innocence to warrant a conviction.' The 'ownership' is not related to any particular thing, nor is there any specification of the particulars in which the proof of ownership is deficient. Appellate courts are not required to speculate concerning what particular error is sought to be charged. State v. Peterson, Mo., 154 S.W.2d 134, 138(5). Ownership of the stolen ring was adequately proved. It is further stated that it must be shown that the 'identical...

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