BRENDA D. GRISSOM, APPELLANT,
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE
Submitted: September 23, 2014.
Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Criminal Division. (CMD-3737-13). (Hon. Patricia A. Wynn, Trial Judge).
Susan E. Borecki was on the brief for appellant.
Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, John P. Mannarino, and Stephen F. Rickard, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief for appellee.
Before BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY and MCLEESE, Associate Judges, and PRYOR, Senior Judge.
Blackburne-Rigsby, Associate Judge :
Following a bench trial, appellant Brenda Grissom was convicted of second-degree theft for stealing two pieces of jewelry worth a total of $72.00 from a Lord & Taylor department store. On appeal, appellant argues that there was insufficient evidence to show that she " wrongfully obtained" the jewelry from the store. Specifically, appellant argues that the only evidence the government proffered to show that she " wrongfully obtained" the jewelry is the universal product codes (" UPCs" ) on the jewelry, which appeared as items for sale in Lord & Taylor's computer system. Appellant claims that just because the UPCs appeared in Lord & Taylor's computer system does not mean that the items were unique to that particular store. Based on the forthcoming reasons, we agree with appellant and conclude that the UPCs in this case, standing alone, could not have reasonably identified the jewelry as coming from this specific Lord & Taylor store. There being inadequate evidence to reasonably infer that appellant " wrongfully obtained" the jewelry, there is insufficient evidence to support appellant's conviction and we must reverse.
I. Factual Background
On March 9, 2013, appellant was shopping at a Lord & Taylor department store located at 5255 Western Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C. A loss prevention officer, Eain James Cole, decided to focus his attention on appellant through a security camera lens as she browsed through the store. Thereafter, Mr. Cole also physically followed her throughout the store, including within the jewelry section. However,
he did not actually see her conceal or take any items. Nonetheless, believing that she might have taken some items without purchasing them, Mr. Cole confronted appellant after she exited the store, escorted her to the store's holding area, and searched her belongings. He discovered jewelry, a bracelet and necklace, among appellant's other personal belongings, which he thought might have come from the store, based on his observation of appellant browsing through the jewelry section. Mr. Cole recorded the UPCs from the jewelry, cross-referenced those numbers in the store's computer system, and found that jewelry of the same type is sold in the store for a total value of $72.00. Based on this finding, Mr. Cole concluded that the jewelry items were from that store, and that appellant took them without paying. Appellant was subsequently charged with second-degree theft.
At trial, the government's only admitted evidence was Mr. Cole's testimony. Mr. Cole testified as to his observations of appellant in the store and clarified that he did not see her take or conceal any items because he was too far away to see what specific items appellant was selecting while browsing at the jewelry display. He further stated that he saw her purchasing several items, but could not see exactly what the items were. Mr. Cole conceded that after he stopped appellant during his investigation, he never checked with the sales clerk or obtained ...