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State v. J.T.

December 9, 1996

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
J.T., APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 95-8-04077-4. Date filed: 11/21/95.

PER CURIAM. J.T. appeals his juvenile court conviction for attempted residential burglary. He argues that there was insufficient evidence supporting the court's finding that he intended to commit a crime as required under RCW 9A.52.025(1). We agree and reverse.

FACTS

At around midnight, Georgene Allen was awakened by someone walking in her backyard. She looked out the window and saw J.T., her sons' friend. Allen told J.T. her sons were not home and that he should leave. J.T. said "okay". As Allen went back to her room, she heard J.T. banging on her son's back window. Allen called the police.

Within minutes, Officer Pritchard arrived. He saw J.T. trying to remove the outside window screen from the bedroom window. Pritchard apprehended J.T. as he attempted to run past him. J.T. was extremely intoxicated. Pritchard testified that, J.T. told him that he "had the right to break into this friend's room because his friend was over 18 and he had his permission . . . ."

J.T. testified that he drank heavily before going to the Allen's home because he was depressed about having to leave for boarding school the next day. He testified that he went to the Allen's home to "say good-bye to my friends and I was going to see if I could spend the night with them[.]" He could not remember removing the window screen.

DECISION

To convict a person of attempted residential burglary, the State must prove a substantial step toward the commission of residential burglary. "A person is guilty of residential burglary if, with intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein, the person enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling other than a vehicle." See RCW 9A.52.025.

J.T. argues that there was insufficient evidence from which the court could infer intent to commit a crime within Allen's home. We agree. The test of sufficiency of the evidence is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Green, 94 Wash. 2d 216, 221, 616 P.2d 628 (1980).

The court's written findings reflect that the court's inference of intent rested solely on the fact that J.T. returned to the residence after being told to leave. The intent to commit a crime may be inferred if the defendant's conduct and surrounding facts and circumstances plainly indicate such an intent as a matter of logical probability. State v. Bergeron, 105 Wash. 2d 1, 4, 711 P.2d 1000 (1985). Intent may not be inferred from evidence that is "patently equivocal". See State v. Jackson, 112 Wash. 2d 867, 774 P.2d 1211 (1989)(inference cannot follow that there was intent to commit a crime within the building just by defendant's shattering of the window because evidence was consistent with two different interpretations; attempted burglary and malicious mischief). Here, J. T.'s conduct was equivocal.

The only direct evidence of J.T.'s intent came from J.T. himself. He stated that he was attempting to get into the home so that he could say good-bye to his friends. While there was sufficient evidence to satisfy the first element that J.T. attempted to unlawfully enter Allen's home, there was insufficient evidence to justify a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that he had the requisite intent to commit a crime in the house. As such, we reverse J.T.'s attempted residential burglary conviction.

19961209 ...


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