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Morris v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

September 26, 2014


Page 1245

Appeal from the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Jack Smith, Judge. Trial Court No. 3AN-11-2140 CR.

David D. Reineke, under contract with the Alaska Public Defender Agency, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

Terisia Chleborad, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Hanley, District Court Judge.[*] Chief Judge MANNHEIMER, concurring.


Page 1246

 ALLARD, Judge

Earl Tyrone Morris was convicted of second-degree theft after he stole a Canada Goose parka from an outfitter in Anchorage. Under the law in effect at the time of Morris's offense, a person committed second-degree theft, a class C felony, if the person stole property valued at $500 to $25,000.[1]

Morris argues that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. Although he characterizes his claim as an attack on the sufficiency of the evidence the State presented at trial, his real dispute concerns the legal definition of the crime of second-degree theft.[2] Specifically, Morris argues that, for purposes of determining the degree of theft he committed, the " market value" of the stolen property must be based on the property's wholesale price, not its retail price. Morris asserts that he was only guilty of third-degree theft, a misdemeanor, because the wholesale price of the stolen parka was only $330.[3]

Resolving Morris's claim hinges on the proper legal interpretation of AS 11.46.980(a), the statute that defines the " value" of stolen property as " the market value of the property at the time and place of the crime." [4]

As we explain in this opinion, the term " market value" has a recognized meaning at common law: the price at which the property would change hands in an arm's length transaction between a willing seller and a willing buyer who are aware of the pertinent facts. We therefore reject Morris's contention that the term " market value" has no ascertainable legal meaning.

Additionally, in cases involving the theft of retail merchandise, the general rule is that the retail price of an item is prima facie evidence of its market value. Here, the State presented evidence that the retail price range of the parka was from $660 to $740. This means that the State's evidence (if believed) was legally sufficient to prove second-degree theft. We therefore affirm Morris's conviction.

Morris separately appeals his 2-year sentence as excessive. As Morris recognizes, we do not have jurisdiction to hear this claim.[5] We therefore forward this portion of Morris's appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court under Appellate Rule 215(k).

Factual and procedural background

On February 15, 2011, a man walked into 6th Avenue Outfitters in Anchorage wearing a black Canada Goose Resolute parka -- the same type of parka carried by the outfitter. An employee directed the man to the men's side of the store where the man tried on one or more parkas and then left the store. About fifteen minutes later, a store employee found a used Canada Goose parka lying on the floor that appeared to be identical to the parka worn by the man. Employees then discovered an empty space in the rack holding the Canada Goose parkas and concluded that a used parka had been switched for a

Page 1247

new one. They searched the used parka and found an Alaska Quest card in the name of Earl T. Morris.

About a week later, an employee of the outfitter spotted the man who had switched the parka. The general manager and another employee conducted a citizen's arrest of the man, who was later identified as Morris. Morris was wearing a new black Canada Goose Resolute parka at the time of his arrest.

At trial, the general manager of 6th Avenue Outfitters testified that on February 15, 2011, the store was selling the stolen parka for $659.95. He stated that Canada Goose charged a wholesale price of $330 and suggested a retail price of $675, and that Canada Goose did not want its authorized retailers to sell its products for less than the " keystone," which is essentially double the wholesale price.

An investigator with the Public Defender Agency testified that she searched the Internet on August 15, 2011, for the type of parka allegedly stolen by Morris and found a website selling the parka for $220.98. The State countered this assertion with evidence that the website the investigator had visited was not an authorized retailer of Canada Goose parkas and that the low-priced parka was probably a counterfeit. The State also presented evidence that Cabela's and ...

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