State v. Hoselton

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, 1988.

179 W.Va. 645, 371 S.E.2d 366.

Dressler, pp. 847-849


Facts: Hoselton was hanging around with some of his friends who broke into a barge.  He was arrested along with them and charged with entering without breaking into a vessel with intent to commit larceny as an accomplice.  The only evidence that showed that he was an accomplice was his statement during questioning that “you could say that” he was a “lookout”.  Hoselton was convicted and he appealed, claiming insufficient evidence.


Issue: Is there enough evidence to convict the defendant of entering with intent to commit larceny?


Rule: If the State can show that the defendant was a lookout, the defendant may be convicted as a principal in the second degree (someone who helped out at the actual time of the crime).


Analysis: The court says that the evidence that the defendant was a lookout is far too thin to meet the State’s burden of proof.  The defendant just said that “you could say” he was a lookout.  He didn’t know his friends were going to steal stuff and he never reaped any benefits from the crime.


Conclusion: The conviction is overturned.


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