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State v. Baker

Court of Appeals of Oregon

October 9, 2019

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
SHAWN LEE BAKER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted August 1, 2019

          Polk County Circuit Court 16CR68877; Norman R. Hill, Judge.

          Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, and Kali Montague, Deputy Public Defender, Offce of Public Defense Services, fled the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Philip Thoennes, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Hadlock, Presiding Judge, and DeHoog, Judge, and Mooney, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction for first-degree theft, ORS 164.055, and unlawful entry into a motor vehicle, ORS 164.272. Defendant assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal on both counts. He argues that, because the state's case depended entirely on uncorroborated accomplice testimony, the evidence did not satisfy the independent evidence rule requirements of ORS 136.440(1) and was therefore insufficient to support either conviction.

         Held:

         The trial court erred when it denied defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal. Evidence in the record did not satisfy the independent evidence rule requirements of ORS 136.440(1) and was therefore insufficient to permit a reasonable factfinder to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that defendant had committed the crimes with which he was charged.

         [299 Or.App. 780] DEHOOG, J.

         Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for first-degree theft, ORS 164.055, and unlawful entry into a motor vehicle, ORS 164.272. He assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal on both counts. He argues that, because the state's case depended entirely on uncorroborated accomplice testimony, the evidence did not satisfy the requirements of ORS 136.440(1) and was therefore insufficient to support either conviction. We agree with defendant that the state's accomplice testimony lacked the independent corroboration required by ORS 136.440(1), and, therefore, we reverse.

         In a challenge to a trial court's denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal, we view the evidence "in the light most favorable to the state to determine whether a rational trier of fact, making reasonable inferences, could have found the essential elements of the crime proved beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Hall, 327 Or. 568, 570, 966 P.2d 208 (1998); see also State v. Allison, 325 Or. 585, 587-88, 941 P.2d 1017 (1997) (applying same standard of review to the ruling from a bench trial).

         Before dawn on August 15, 2015, a witness, Schmunk, was awakened by vehicle lights shining into her home. In response to noises she heard outside, she looked out of her window to the street below. Across the street, she saw a man and woman standing outside her neighbor's work truck; they appeared to be removing things from it. After yelling out for the pair to stop what they were doing, Schmunk ran downstairs, leashed her dog, and ran outside. By that time, however, the pair was gone. Schmunk saw that the side compartments of the truck were open and appeared to have been broken into. Schmunk contacted her neighbor, Decker, who later testified that the truck and its contents belonged to his employer. Decker estimated that $2, 000 in tools had been taken from the truck.

         At trial, Schmunk testified that the man she had seen might have been in his mid-twenties or thirties, appeared to be "white," had an average build, and had "shorter, not shaved, *** typical guy's hair." She also [299 Or.App. 781] testified that the male "appeared to be carrying a toolbox and his arms were kind of like this (gesture) and he was kind of waddling, so you could see kind of the muscles on the arms." Law enforcement arrived and dusted the truck for fingerprints. One of the prints was found to be a match for defendant's alleged accomplice, Prisco, who later admitted to law enforcement that she had been the woman that ...


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