Brief Fact Summary. Defendant argued that his conviction for possession stolen United States Treasury checks, forging checks and depositing forged checks should be overturned because he lacked knowledge the endorsements were forged.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The fact that the Defendant should have known or been aware of the high probability that the checks were stolen was sufficient knowledge under the statute.
But the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did have knowledge that the property was stolen, an essential element of the crime, remains on the Government.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether the inference of knowledge could be drawn from surrounding circumstances and if this inference was appropriate under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.
The fact that Defendant should have known or been aware of the high probability that the checks were stolen was sufficient knowledge under the statute.
Dissent. The dissent focused on the lack of evidence that the checks were stolen from the mail. The theft from the mail charge is what made this case a Federal one.
The second dissenting opinion focused on the fact that the dissenting Justices believed the prosecution had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant knew the checks were stolen.
Discussion. The Court ruled that the evidence established that Defendant possessed recently stolen checks payable to persons he did not know and that Defendant provided no plausible explanation for such possession that would make him innocent. This was sufficient evidence to find Defendant guilty. The Court did note that long time used jury instructions which allowed for inferences must be reexamined periodically to conform with modern Constitutional interpretations.