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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In Fortson v State, an 11-page opinion, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:

Defendant was spotted driving a stolen pick-up truck within a few hours after the owner reported it missing. After being stopped by police officers, the defendant was belligerent and uncooperative insisting he did not steal the truck. Defendant was convicted of receiving stolen property and on appeal argued the evidence was not sufficient to sustain the conviction. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals agreed and reversed Defendant's conviction. Among other things the court reasoned that although the unexplained possession of recently stolen property standing alone may be sufficient to support a conviction for theft, it is not sufficient to support a conviction for receiving stolen property. * * *

In reversing the trial court on sufficiency of evidence grounds the Court of Appeals concluded that in this case the circumstances did not support a reasonable inference that Fortson knew the property was stolen. The court noted that there was no evidence that Fortson attempted to conceal the truck from the officers, physically resist the officers, flee, or that he provided evasive answers. The court concluded, “Although Fortson was found to be in possession of recently stolen property, the State failed to provide any other facts to support an inference of knowledge . . . . [B]ecause the State could only prove that he was in possession of recently stolen property, that fact alone cannot support the inference that Fortson knew the truck was stolen.” Fortson, slip op. at 6. We agree. And with our holding today, the same conclusion would obtain had Fortson been charged with theft as opposed to receiving stolen property.

We reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 21, 2010 02:25 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions