On December 3, 1964 in the early morning hours, two men, Clifford Lorrick and Alfred Williams broke into the Oak recreation park building. However, before they could steal anything from the building, they were intercepted by the building’s manager. Subsequently, one of the men, Williams, shot the manager in the face with the shotgun. All these while, the Poplar (defendant) was acting as a lookout as his accomplices broke into and entered into the said building. They were all arrested. Williams and the defendant were charged with the offence of assault with intent to commit murder and breaking and entering. They were convicted on both counts. This conviction formed the basis of the appeal by Poppar as he sought to establish in the appeal that he was not guilty of the offence of assault with intent to commit murder.
In finding the defendant guilty, the trial court had relied on the evidence adduced by Lorrick who while testifying for the prosecution, stated that they had been with the defendant before the planned breaking and entering and during the actual commission of the crime. He also testified that at some point as they drove in the night, the shotgun went off accidentally. He stated that as they broke into the building, the defendant had gone to a nearby building so as to act as a look out. The defendant refuted this evidence and stated that his purpose of going to the building was to see his friend who would have helped him find employment. He also contended that he was in no way involved in the plans of Lorrick and Willians and more specifically that he had formed the requisite mens rea of the offence of assault with intent to commit murder.
The issue before the appellate court was whether the prosecution had established whether the defendant had the necessary mens rea to commit the offence of assault with intention to commit murder.
The court held that the trial court had correctly convicted the accused person of the offense of assault with intention to commit murder. In its ruling, the court stated that intention could be inferred from the circumstances of the case and that evidence adduced by the prosecution had established beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant had an intention to commit the offence of assault with intention to commit murder.
The court stated that the defendant had prior knowledge that his accomplices had a shotgun and thus could not have been said to be unaware that they were likely to use it to commit a crime.
The court also held that the circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime were such as to compel an inference of guilt of the defendant. The effect of this inference was to rebut his defence that he had gone to seek out his friend so as to look for employment.
Furthermore, the court held that the acts committed by the defendant were done in furtherance of a common intention. In other words, the defendant was playing his role in facilitating the commission of the crime. The court thus upheld the conviction of the defendant.
The court was unanimous hence no dissenting opinion
It is my considered opinion that the appellate court rightly disallowed the appeal sought by the defendant. The defendant was not able to bring forth any new evidence showing the absence of an intention on his part to aid in the commission of the crime. The prosecution had established that he had formed the mens rea to commit the crime. His guilt had been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
People v. Poplar. No. 132, 173 N.W.2d 732. Michigan Appellate Court. 1970.