SYLVESTER M. JOSEPH, Appellant,
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
from the Circuit Court for Marion County, Jonathan D. Ohlman,
S. Purdy, Public Defender, and Thomas J. Lukashow, Assistant
Public Defender, Daytona Beach, for Appellant.
Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Allison Leigh
Morris, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, for
Joseph appeals his convictions for burglary of a conveyance
while armed and grand theft. He argues that the trial court
erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal because
there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions.
We agree and reverse.
December 22, 2016, the victim drove her car to the Humane
Society in Ocala to drop her dogs off. The dogs were to be
kenneled while the victim went out of town. The victim's
car was burglarized during the short time that the victim was
inside the building.
Humane Society surveillance video revealed that immediately
prior to the burglary a dark-colored Chrysler 300 backed into
the parking space next to the victim's vehicle. An
unidentified man was seen exiting the rear door of the
Chrysler 300. Moments later, the victim's vehicle's
lights were flashing. Shortly thereafter, the Chrysler 300
exited the parking area. When the victim returned to her car,
she discovered that two of the windows had been
"smashed" and multiple items had been stolen. Among
the stolen items were a handgun, two Coach purses, Coach and
Armani perfume bottles, a distinctive red designer dress, a
large amount of cash, and some credit cards. The victim
provided police with photos of some of the stolen items.
days later, on January 3, 2017, an investigating officer went
to Justine Wilkerson's Ocala residence. Wilkerson is the
mother of Joseph's child. Joseph was alone inside
Wilkerson's apartment at the time of the officer's
arrival. When Wilkerson arrived, she granted the officer
permission to search her apartment. During the ensuing
search, the officer found the two stolen Coach purses and the
stolen red designer dress in the spare bedroom closet.
Wilkerson testified that she had never previously seen these
items. On the bed in the spare bedroom, police found receipts
including one with Joseph's fingerprint on it. In
Wilkerson's bedroom, the officer found the two stolen
bottles of perfume.
investigators determined that Joseph had rented a
dark-colored Chrysler 300 from Enterprise Rent-a-car in Tampa
on December 10, 2016. The vehicle was returned to Enterprise
in Ocala on January 2, 2017. Police searched the vehicle
after it was returned and located one of the victim's
credit cards. Police also found a Walmart receipt dated
December 21, 2016, and a Toys "R" Us receipt dated
December 24, 2016, in the Chrysler 300. Thereafter,
Joseph's fingerprint was determined to be on the Walmart
receipt and Corey Rutledge's fingerprint was determined
to be on the Toys "R" Us receipt. Rutledge is
trial, the State presented the testimony of several
witnesses, including Wilkerson. Wilkerson testified, inter
alia, that Joseph lived in the Tampa area. He would stay in
her spare bedroom when he visited. However, Wilkerson also
testified that her brother, Rutledge, as well as two other
individuals, would sometimes stay in the spare bedroom.
Finally, Wilkerson testified that in the month of December
2016, both Joseph and Rutledge had driven the Chrysler 300
and, in fact, she believed that Rutledge had been arrested
while driving the car on December 31st.
the State did not present any direct evidence placing Joseph
at or near the Humane Society at the time of the burglary or
directly linking him to any of the stolen items.
Notwithstanding, the State argues that the circumstantial
evidence adduced at trial was sufficient to support
Joseph's convictions. We disagree.
special standard of review of the sufficiency of the evidence
applies where, as in the instant case, a conviction is wholly
based on circumstantial evidence. State v. Law, 559
So.2d 187, 188 (Fla. 1989). "Where the only proof of
guilt is circumstantial, no matter how strongly the evidence
may suggest guilt, a conviction cannot be sustained unless
the evidence is inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis
of innocence." Knight v. State, 186 So.3d 1005,
1009 (Fla. 2016) (quoting Jaramillo v. State, 417
So.2d 257, 257 (Fla. 1982)). Here, Joseph's hypothesis of
innocence was that he was not involved in the burglary or
theft that were the subject of the charges against him.
previously noted, the State presented no direct evidence
connecting Joseph to the burglary or the stolen items.
Although the State's evidence was sufficient to establish
that a vehicle rented to Joseph was involved in the burglary,
and that his fingerprints were found on papers located in the
vehicle and in Wilkerson's spare bedroom, the
uncontroverted evidence was that Joseph was not the only
individual who used the car during the rental ...