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State v. Morgan

Supreme Court of Oregon

February 16, 2017

STATE OF OREGON, Respondent on Review,
v.
RYLEY JEANNE MORGAN, Petitioner on Review.

          Argued and Submitted September 23, 2016.

         On review from the Court of Appeals.[*] (CC 11CR0886; CA A152692)

          Marc D. Brown, Chief Deputy Defender, Salem, argued the cause and fled the brief for petitioner on review. Also on the brief was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Offce of Public Defense Services.

          Jamie K. Contreras, Assistant Attorney General, Salem, argued the cause and fled the brief for respondent on review. Also on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

         En Banc

         The decision of the Court of Appeals is affirmed. The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded to the circuit court for entry of judgment and resentencing as ordered by the Court of Appeals.

         Case Summary: Defendant was convicted of second-degree robbery under ORS 164.405(1)(b) on the theory that she had committed third-degree robbery and had been "aided by another person actually present." Defendant appealed to the Court of Appeals and argued that, to convict her of second-degree robbery, the state was required to prove that Thornton, the other "person actually present, " was her accomplice - that he had acted with the specific intent to promote or facilitate the commission of the robbery. The Court of Appeals disagreed, concluding that ORS 164.405(1)(b) does not require that the aider know that the defendant is committing theft. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Martha L. Walters, the Oregon Supreme Court held that, to establish that defendant was "aided by another person actually present" and therefore was guilty of second-degree robbery under ORS 164.405(1)(b), the state was required to prove that the person who aided defendant acted with the intent to facilitate the robbery. The Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals with respect to defendant's second-degree robbery conviction. The Court explained that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, the faultfinder could have found that Thornton, the other "person actually present, " was aware of the facts that constituted the crime of third-degree robbery and acted with an intent to promote or facilitate the robbery.

         The Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in part and reversed in part, consistent with the Court of Appeals' holding that the trial court erred in failing to merge defendant's third-degree robbery conviction with her second-degree robbery conviction. The Court remanded the case to the circuit court for entry of judgment and resentencing as ordered by the Court of Appeals.

          WALTERS, J.

         In this case, we hold that, to establish that defendant was "aided by another person actually present" and therefore was guilty of second-degree robbery under ORS 164.405(1)(b), the state was required to prove that the person who aided defendant acted with the intent to facilitate the robbery. Because the state proffered evidence from which a rational trier of fact could have reached that conclusion, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and the decision of the Court of Appeals. State v. Morgan. 274 Or.App. 792, 794, 364 P.3d 690 (2015).

         For reasons that we will explain, we summarize the relevant facts in the light most favorable to the state. Defendant's boyfriend, Thornton, dropped off defendant and the couple's child at a department store. Defendant entered the store and took clothing into a fitting room to try it on. Recognizing suspicious behavior, security officers began to monitor defendant's actions and noticed that, after defendant had left the fitting room, two items of clothing were missing. Soon thereafter, Thornton returned to the store and held the child while defendant continued to try on clothing. Defendant left the fitting room a second time, and the security officers noted that two additional items were missing. Two officers-Marshall and Waltz-and the store manager waited for defendant and Thornton to pass all points of sale and leave the store, and then followed them to the parking lot.

         In the parking lot, Waltz approached defendant as she walked to the car that Thornton was driving, showed defendant his badge, and said, "Ma'am [, ] I'm with store security and we need to talk about some merchandise that wasn't paid for." As Waltz approached defendant, he yelled, "Store security. Stop." Defendant responded, "You're not taking me to jail, " and jumped into the car on the passenger's side. Waltz grabbed defendant's right arm and told her to get out of the car, but defendant refused and pulled her arm back.

         Thornton, who was seated on the driver's side of the vehicle, knew that the officers were loss prevention officers.

         He heard the officers state that they were security personnel, and he knew that they had come to the car to question defendant because of her having been in the store. Thornton was also aware of defendant's history as a repeat property offender.[1] Nevertheless, Thornton started the car. Waltz continued to hold onto defendant's arm, and, with defendant's door still open, Thornton began to drive. Waltz let go of defendant, and Thornton drove forward toward Marshall and the store manager, who were standing in front of the car. Marshall avoided being hit by "push[ing] off the front of the car, " but the car hit the store manager, who was unable to get out of the way. Thornton sped away "extremely fast" and ran a red light as he and defendant left the store parking lot.

         The state charged defendant with second-degree robbery under ORS 164.405(1)(b), based on allegations that she had committed third-degree robbery and had been "aided by" Thornton, "another person actually present." During her bench trial, defendant raised questions about what was required to sustain a conviction for second-degree robbery and challenged the legal sufficiency of the state's evidence. In her closing argument to the trial court, she argued that "aiding requires something more than merely driving off in the vehicle" and that " [Thornton] has to know what [defendant] did." Defendant argued that Thornton did not have that knowledge and that the only evidence was that he drove the car out of the parking lot out of self-interest, to avoid being caught in possession of drugs. The trial court disagreed with defendant's statement of the law. The court explained that the person aiding defendant was not required to have any knowledge of the specific crime being committed: "All I have to * * * find is that [Thornton] knew that [defendant] was being sought for something, it was nefarious, criminal, and that he was aiding her to leave and get out of there." The court found that "there clearly was an intent * * * to aid the defendant."

         Defendant appealed to the Court of Appeals and argued that, to convict her of second-degree robbery, the state had to prove that Thornton was her accomplice-that he had acted with the specific intent to promote or facilitate the commission of the robbery. Morgan, 274 Or.App. at 797.[2] The Court of Appeals disagreed, concluding that "ORS 164.405(1)(b) does not require that 'another person actually present' who aids a defendant must know that the defendant is committing theft." Id. at 794. In fact, the court explained in a footnote, ORS 164.405(1)(b) does not include a mental state requirement for the person who aids the defendant; that person need not know, the court opined, that the defendant is engaging in something "nefarious [and] criminal." Id. at 801 n 3 (brackets in original). The court reasoned that "the focus of ORS 164.405(1)(b) is defendant's mental state and defendant's use of 'another person actually present, '" rather than the mental state of the person providing the aid. Id.

         In reviewing whether the evidence was sufficient to satisfy the legal requirements of ORS 164.405(1)(b), the court deemed the relevant standard to be "whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proved beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. at 801. Because the court understood ORS 164.405(1)(b) to require only that Thornton was in proximity to the victim, it concluded that the evidence presented at trial met that standard, and affirmed. Id. at 801-02.

         Defendant sought review in this court, and we allowed her petition. The standard of review that we should apply depends on the nature of the objection that defendant is pressing. In closing argument in a criminal case, a defendant may make a number of arguments: for example, a defendant may challenge the sufficiency of the evidence or make an argument for the existence of an element that the state must prove. We consider the former to be the functional equivalent of a motion for judgment of acquittal and the latter to be the functional equivalent of a challenge to jury instructions. See State v. Gonzalez-Valenzuela. 358 Or 451, 454 n 1, 365 P.3d 116 (2015) (explaining distinction).

         Here, the precise nature of defendant's trial court argument is somewhat unclear. In this court, however, defendant's argument is best understood as a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. First, defendant does not assign error to the standard of review applied by the Court of Appeals-a standard that applies when a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. Second, in this court, defendant does not explicitly contend that her argument in the trial court was the functional equivalent of a challenge to a jury instruction. Instead, she primarily frames her argument as a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Accordingly, we limit our review to determining whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, a rational trier of fact could have found that the state had proved the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. See ...


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