Fifth District affirms Collinsville burglary conviction

By John Breslin | Feb 8, 2019

MOUNT VERNON. -- A burglary conviction will stand after the Fifth District Appellate Court affirmed a jury verdict that the defendant argued was reached without sufficient evidence to find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt. 

Mark Clark was found guilty by a jury in May 2014 of breaking into a parked car in Collinsville and stealing two packs of cigarettes, vehicle registration and insurance paperwork, UMB bank deposit envelopes and an Alton & Southern Railway Company parking pass. Madison County Associate Judge Neil Schroeder presided over the trial. 

Clark, who represented himself during the trial, was highly intoxicated when he carried out the burglary, according to the appellate court ruling. 

Clark argued there was no physical evidence supporting the allegation that he broke into the car.

"The defendant argues that without witnesses, fingerprints, or DNA evidence placing him in the vehicle, the evidence was insufficient to convict him of burglary," Justice David Overstreet wrote in his judgment.

"When considering the sufficiency of the evidence, it is not our function to retry the defendant," Overstreet added. "The relevant question is whether, after reviewing all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, any rational fact finder could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt."

The judgment detailed the circumstances that led to Clark's arrest, stating that the victim saw two individuals close to his home with one of individuals wearing a gray sweatshirt.

An hour later Collinsville Police Sgt. Charles Mackin and officer Mike Brown were carrying out a pedestrian check near the home of the victim when they met Clark, who was wearing a "grayish, bluish hoodie." 

The defendant had stolen items in his pockets and was "highly intoxicated." Clark allegedly told police that he got the items from a friend, the judgment states.

Overstreet referenced a Supreme Court ruling in his judgment that the "person in exclusive possession may be the burglar, to be sure, but he might also be a receiver of stolen property, guilty of theft but not burglary, an innocent purchaser without knowledge that the item is stolen, or even an innocent victim of circumstances.”

However, the high court found that if there was a rational connection between possession and the act, that it was more likely than not that there was a connection. If the explanation the jury reasonably believes to be false, then guilt can be assumed.

Justices Melissa Chapman and Judy Cates concurred in the judgment.

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