Gary Block v. State of Arkansas

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October 27, 2004


[CR 03-1591]



Larry D. Vaught, Judge

Gary Block was charged with breaking or entering and misdemeanor theft of property. A jury found him guilty of both offenses, and Block was sentenced as an habitual offender to five years' imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction. On appeal, Block argues that the trial court committed reversible error in its refusal to grant his motion for directed verdict. Block's claim of error is predicated on a presumption that the State failed to prove that he possessed the appropriate mens rea to commit theft when he broke into and entered a vehicle, which was being stored at a garage facility awaiting repair. We disagree and affirm. A motion for directed verdict is treated as a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. In our review of the evidence, we seek to determine whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence. Ashe v. State, 57 Ark. App. 99, 942 S.W.2d 267 (1997). However, we consider only the evidence that supports the conviction without weighing it against other evidence that is favorable to the accused. Id. If the evidence is of sufficient certainty and precision to compel a conclusion and pass beyond mere suspicion and conjecture, the evidence is substantial. Stanton v. State, 344 Ark. 589, 42 S.W.3d 474 (2001).

Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-39-202(a) (Repl. 1997) provides that, "[a] person commits the offense of breaking or entering if for the purpose of committing a theft or felony he enters or breaks into any [...] vehicle[.]" Block argues that the State failed to prove that he possessed the requisite mental state to commit a theft when he broke into and entered the vehicle. In addressing Block's allegation of error, we are mindful of the fact that a "criminal defendant's intent or mental state of mind is seldom capable of proof by direct evidence[.]" Smith v. State, 346 Ark. 48, 53, 55 S.W.3d 251, 254 (2001). Because of the difficulty in ascertaining a person's intent, a presumption exists that a person intends the natural and probable consequences of his acts, and the criminal's mental state is usually inferred from the circumstances of the crime. Id. Additionally, the fact finder is allowed to draw upon its own common knowledge and experience to infer intent from the circumstances. In Block's case, we are satisfied that the circumstances of the crime are sufficient to show that he broke into the vehicle with an adequate mens rea to commit theft.

At trial, the following testimony relating to the circumstances of the crime was presented. On April 16, 2003, Joe Beckius, the manager of Jett's Gas and Service called the police after discovering a man asleep in a truck, which had been delivered to the service station for repairs. Beckius testified that when he left the garage the night before, the passenger-side window of the vehicle was covered by a piece of Plexiglass that was ducttaped into place. When Beckius returned to work on the morning of the 16th, the Plexiglass that covered the vehicle's window had been pulled out.

After arriving at the scene, the reporting police officer identified Block as the person sleeping in the truck. The officer also noticed a gold-colored Timex watch in Block's pant pocket. Block was released without incident, and the officer observed Block walk behind a residence. As the officer was leaving the repair shop he again observed Block. This time, Block was coming out from behind the residence with a black tool box in hand. Remembering that Block did not have the tool box earlier at the station, the officer's suspicion was piqued. As the officer approached Block, Block dropped the tool box and began walking to the opposite corner. At this point, Block was detained and the Timex watch was removed from his person and stored as evidence.

David Wren, the owner of the truck, testified that he was one-hundred percent certain that the watch belonged to his employee, John Palmquiste, because Palmquiste "is an electrician and he always [wears] Indig[l]o watches so he [can] see when he's working in the dark." Wren further testified that he saw the watch on Palmquiste the day that Palmquiste's truck broke down and suspected that Palquiste had taken off the watch "so he wouldn't bang it up" while attempting to repair the stalled truck.

Based on these facts, we are convinced that the State supplied sufficient evidence to support a reasonable conclusion that it was Block's intent to break and enter into the truck with the intent to commit theft therein. Because there was sufficient evidence presented to support Block's conviction for breaking or entering and misdemeanor theft, the trial court's denial of Block's motion for directed verdict is affirmed.


Gladwin and Robbins, JJ., agree.