Presence Isn’t Enough for Accessory
Video Transcript: Accessory to a crime requires more than just being along for the ride. I’m Tulsa attorney, James Wirth, and we’re talking about a decision out from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in the case of Wilson V State F2021 554. It was decided December 15th, 2022. And that is a case where the person was charged with accessory to burglary in the second degree.
Ultimately, he had some prior offenses that enhanced sentencing and the jury gave him 20 years for that accessory to burglary. And he filed an appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals asserting that the conviction should be reversed because the state presented insufficient evidence to prove the accessory elements. So saying there was insufficient evidence.
Now normally not much is required to prove these if the jury finds there’s guilt. It’s a tough burden up on appeal, but in this case, the court found that there was reason to believe that there was insufficient evidence.
So in his first proposition, appellate challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for burglary in the second degree, says that the state failed to prove he actively concealed or aided in the person that actually did the burglary. And they note that appellate, defendant in this case, was present. Appellate was along for the ride before, during and after but did not participate in any respect.
So the state showed evidence that he was there before. He was there while the crime is being committed. He was there afterwards. But there’s nothing showing that he partook or that he encouraged even. Just that he was, quote, “Along for the ride.”
So the court held that at most the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that appellate had knowledge of the commission of the burglary, but that is only one element of the crime of accessory. We got to prove more than that. Says that suspicion or probability that appellate was an accessory to the laundromat burglary due to his presence. So there may have been a suspicion or a probability of his participation or accessory based on his presence alone, but that does not amount to beyond a reasonable doubt.
So what they’re saying is maybe that’s enough to arrest him, maybe that’s enough to be bound over to preliminary hearing, but it is not enough at a jury trial where the state has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Now, interestingly, what the state was asserting on the appeal was that when the person that committed the burglary testified that the defendant in this case had nothing to do with it, that the jury could listen to that, determine his credibility and find that that person was lying.
So if the person that committed the crime says that this guy, the defendant, had nothing to do with it and they find that he’s lying, well, that means that they find that he did have something to do with it. So the fact that this person said that he didn’t, the state wants to assert that that’s evidence that he did. Well, it doesn’t work that way. The states kind of grasping at straws there, but proving nothing does not prove something.
So if they find that person to be not believable, that means they discredit that completely. It doesn’t mean that they are entitled to believe the opposite of that beyond a reasonable doubt as the state is asserting here.
So ultimately, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals found that it is sufficient evidence. There was nothing showing that he committed any part of it, that he helped, that he encouraged it, that he planned it, just simply that he was present, and being present is not enough.
So if you are dealing with a case in the State of Oklahoma where you’re being charged or it’s a friend or family member, they’re not going to just want to take information from a video on the internet. They’re going to want to talk to an attorney privately and confidentially to get legal advice relevant to them. To get that scheduled with an Oklahoma criminal defense lawyer at my office, you can go online to makelaweasy.com.