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Name: People v. Sanford
Case #: A145156
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/21/2017

Based on the unusual circumstances in this case, defendant’s presence in one of two suspected getaway cars ten minutes after a robbery was insufficient evidence to support his robbery conviction. Sanford was convicted of second degree robbery (Pen. Code, § 211), based upon a jewelry store robbery committed by six males, who escaped the scene of the crime in two vehicles. One of the vehicles was stopped by police about ten minutes after the crime; Sanford was a passenger in the car. Otherwise, no physical evidence linked him to the robbery and no witness could identify him. Other evidence reflected that at least one of the car’s occupants had changed between the time of the offense and the police stop. On appeal, Sanford challenged the sufficiency of the evidence. Held: Reversed. The evaluation of an insufficiency of the evidence claim on appeal is highly deferential. Nevertheless, substantial evidence means evidence that is reasonable, credible and of solid value, not just any evidence. Here, almost no evidence placed Sanford in the store. He did not have possession of any of the stolen goods and was not identified as a participant. Based on the evidence, it was “not reasonable to infer that the occupants of the car when it was pulled over were the same as they were at robbery scene.” The sole evidence indicating Sanford might have been involved was his presence in one of the getaway vehicles and that he matched descriptions of the suspects because he is African American and was wearing jeans and sneakers. However, “[b]eing African-American and wearing common items of clothing such as jeans and sneakers, standing alone, do not constitute substantial evidence of identity.” Even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the judgment, it was insufficient to support the conviction.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: