State v. Stuart, 4798

CourtSupreme Court of Hawai'i
Writing for the CourtBefore RICHARDSON, C. J., MARUMOTO, ABE, and LEVINSON, JJ., and Circuit Judge OGATA for KOBAYASHI; RICHARDSON; I further instruct you that if the testimony in this case in its weight and effect is such that two conclusions can reasonably be drawn fro
Citation51 Haw. 656,466 P.2d 444
PartiesSTATE of Hawaii v. J. D. STUART, also known as J. D. James.
Docket NumberNo. 4798,4798
Decision Date12 March 1970

Syllabus by the Court

1. Where, on appeal, defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction, the question is whether there is substantial evidence to support the verdict of the jury.

2. Intent may be shown by circumstantial evidence, and the evidence here is sufficient to support an inference that the defendant acted with the requisite fraudulent intent.

3. Where a proposition of law is requested to be given in an instruction, the instruction may properly be refused where the same proposition is adequately and fully covered in another instruction that is given.

James M. Morita and Robert S. Toyofuku, Honolulu, for defendant-appellant.

William J. Eggers, III, Deputy Pros. Atty., Honolulu, Barry Chung, Pros. Atty., on the brief, for plaintiff-appellee.

Before RICHARDSON, C. J., MARUMOTO, ABE, and LEVINSON, JJ., and Circuit Judge OGATA for KOBAYASHI, J., disqualified.

RICHARDSON, Chief Justice.

Defendant was convicted in circuit court of embezzlement. This appeal challenges the sufficiency of the evidence on the question of intent and attacks the trial court's refusal to give two instructions requested by the defendant.

Defendant had been the manager of several Waikiki apartments owned by the complainant, who lived in California. Under an arrangement with the owner, defendant was to collect rent from the tenants each month and to deposit it to the owner's account at the Bank of Hawaii. Defendant was also to send a monthly report of his rent collections to the owner in California each month. Defendant was in charge of the apartments starting at the beginning of February, 1968. Toward the end of March, 1968, the owner returned from California and confronted the defendant with a discrepancy between the amount of rent collected, as shown by the report sheet sent to the owner, and the amount of the deposits made to the owner's bank account, as shown by the bank's statement. The owner claimed a deficit of some $1,385.58 over the two months. The owner rejected defendant's attempted explanations of the shortage and notified the police. Defendant was charged with embezzlement and a jury convicted him of that crime.

A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

Defendant first contends that the evidence was insufficient to show fraudulent intent, so that a material element of the crime was not proved. Therefore, he argues that his motion for a directed verdict of acquittal in the circuit court should have been granted.

This contention is without merit. It is true that no direct evidence of intent was introduced; but such evidence is not required. The law permits an inference of the requisite intent from evidence of the words or conduct of the defendant. Territory v. Ebarra, 39 Haw. 488, 490 (1952), Territory v. Palai, 23 Haw. 133 (1916), Lo Toon v. Territory, 16 Haw. 351 (1904). Furthermore, a motion for a directed verdict must be considered on the basis of all the evidence viewed in the light most advantageous to the opponent of the motion, including reasonable inferences to be drawn from that evidence. The question is whether there is substantial evidence to support the jury's verdict of guilty. State v. Kekaualua, 50 Haw. 130, 132, 433 P.2d 131 (1967).

It is quite clear that the record contains enough evidence for the jury to infer from the conduct of the defendant that the acted with fraudulent intent. We refer to the testimony of the owner:

I called Mr. Stuart up and asked him how come only $913 deposited, so he said, 'Oh, I just made the deposit just yesterday. Just yesterday. It's all there. It's all straight. The deposit was made straight. It's all there. It's all been made up for.'

However, the bank statements showed that sufficient deposits had not been made. Since this fact was inconsistent with the defendant's statement, the jury could have inferred that the defendant meant to conceal the deficit by deceiving his employer. The owner further testified:

* * * I said, 'what happened to all the shortages?' He said, 'Well, it's here. I bought a few things. I bought the typewriter and I bought a desk for it and so on,' which he had no authority from me to buy it. You see, he had the checking account for expenses; and he used the cash for purchase of a typewriter and radios and tape recorders, and all kinds of junk he bought. He spent money right and left for his own purpose.

From this testimony, the jury could have inferred that the defendant meant to convert some of the owner's money to his own use and benefit.

Also, after first denying that there was any shortage, the defendant later admitted that there was a shortage and asked time to repay the money. This was after the was confronted with the existence of the shortage, and at the trial evidence was adduced that the defendant had earlier attempted to conceal the shortage. The owner testified:

* * * The monthly report was manipulated, you know, to make the rentals for February balance. Mr. Stuart used the March rentals for February rent to make up his total on the statement-to make it look like February was all paid. He manipulated the figures. He used the March rentals and added it to the February to make it balance; to make his report sheet balance witht he ledger and the report sheet that he mailed me * * *. He added this to the report sheet. He added $895 to the February rent. The March collection over there (indicating) was added to the February rent to make it balance as if it was all balanced-all paid.

From this testimony the jury could have inferred that the defendant meant to deceive the owner and conceal the deficit.

While some of these statements were controverted by the defendant, it was the function of the jury to determine whom to believe. It is enough for us to note that there was clearly substantial evidence in the record to support the jury's verdict. The defendant's motion for a directed verdict of acquittal, was properly refused, and there was sufficient evidence to sustain the verdict.

B. Defendant's Requested Instructions

Defendant also contends that the jury should have been instructed, as requested by defendant, that 'the mere deficiency in the accounts of 312 Ohua Studios, without proof of conversion or deceit, is not sufficient evidence on which to convict the defendant of embezzlement. That it must appear beyond a reasonable doubt that he converted the money with a fraudulent intent.' Assuming that this is a correct statement of the law, the subject was sufficiently covered in the following instructions that were given to the jury:

(Court's Instruction Number 6) A jury must not convict a person charged with crime upon mere suspicion, however strong, or simply because there is considerable or even a preponderance of the evidence in the case against him. What the law requires before a defendant can be convicted of a crime is not suspicion, not probabilities, but proof of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

(Court's Instruction Number 7) The burden is upon the prosecution to prove the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of every material element of the crime charged, and a defendant has the right to rely upon a failure of the prosecution to establish such proof.

The real question is whether, after hearing the evidence and from the evidence, you have or have not an abiding belief, amounting to a moral certainty, that the defendant is guilty and that all of the material elements of the offense charged in the indictment have been proved. * * *

(Court's Instruction Number 22) The defendant in this case is charged with the crime of embezzlement. Under our law, if any person is entrusted with, or has the possession, control, custody or keeping of a thing of value of an owner with the consent or authority of the owner; and if he, without the consent and against the will of the owner, fraudulently converts the same to his own use and benefit, then he is guilty of embezzlement.

Therefore, in this case, the material element of the crime with which the defendant is charged are as follows:

(3) That Mr. Stuart fraudulently converted rents which he collected to his own use and benefit in an amount of more than $100. A fraudulent conversion is one made with intent to deprive the owner of his property unlawfully or deceitfully. (Emphasis added.)

These instructions fully and adequately covered the points raised in the requested instruction. This court has uniformly held that where a given proposition of law is requested to be given in an instruction, the instruction may properly be refused where the same proposition is adequately covered in another instruction that is given. This is true even where the refused instruction is a correct statement of the law. State v. Shon, 47 Haw. 158, 168, 385 P.2d 830 (1963), State v. Ayala, 46 Haw. 349, 351, 379 P.2d 590 (1963), Territory v. Martin, 39 Haw. 100, 117, 112 (1951), Territory v. McGregor, 22 Haw. 786, 792 (1915). The rule enunciated in these cases is dispositive of defendant's contention.

Finally, defendant contends that the jury should have been instructed that '(i)f the evidence in this case is susceptible of two constructions or interpretations, each of which appears to you to be reasonable, and one of which points to the guilt of the defendant, and the other to his innocence, it is your duty, under the law, to adopt that interpretation which will admit of the defendant's innocence, and reject that which points to his guilt.

'You will notice that this rule applies only when both of the two possible opposing conclusions appear to you to be reasonable. If, on the other hand, one of the possible conclusions should appear to you to be reasonable and the other to be unreasonable, it would be your duty to adhere to the reasonable deduction and to reject the unreasonable, bearing in mind, however, that even if the...

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