The Massachusetts Appeals Court told a convicted burglar today he's guilty of "entering a residence during the daytime with the intent to commit a felony and with the resulting infliction of fear upon a lawful occupant" even if he didn't want to scare the homeowner who heard him trying to get into her house.
Obdulio Santana argued the court should dismiss his conviction because prosecutors failed to prove he intended to inflict fear on a woman whose house he was caught breaking into after she'd hired him to paint a fence, told him she would be at work - but then stayed home.
The court told Santana the law doesn't care what his intent was, only whether the woman felt fear, which it said she clearly did:
From upstairs she heard repeated knocking at the front door and ringing of the doorbell. She then heard noise at the rear sliding glass door. She went part way down the stairs and from a concealed position saw the defendant at the sliding door. He retreated from the door when her dog began to bark. A few minutes later she heard the shatter of glass, and from an upstairs window saw the defendant ride away on the bicycle. She went downstairs and found a cellar window broken toward the rear of the house. She was now "really scared" and called [her roommate] at work and asked her to come home.
As [the woman] was speaking on the telephone, the defendant returned. He began to paint a segment of the fence along the side of the house and then moved out of sight toward the broken cellar window. Morgan heard a thump, the crunch of glass, and footsteps in the basement. From behind a door at the top of the basement stairway, she heard the footsteps begin to mount the wooden steps. She telephoned 911 and began to speak. The footsteps stopped and receded quickly. ...
The court analyzed the relevant state law and determined:
The independence of the occupant's fear from the intruder's intent rests on a readily apparent legislative choice. As a matter of cultural common sense, the law places upon the intruder the risk of the presence of an occupant and of his or her foreseeable intimidation. The statute requires the infliction of fear not as a specific intention, but only as a probable effect, of the invasion. That treatment is especially warranted in the case in which the violated building is the ultimate sanctuary of a home.
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