An old-school case foiled a bumbling new-school burglar who tried to use his poor decision-making skills as an excuse to get out of a conviction.
Donald Mims is not what you’d call a skilled burglar. At least two people caught him in the act after hearing him knocking at the door and, in one case, he hung around after being spotted, according to a recent state Court of Appeals opinion.
One of the witnesses, Richard Jones, found Mims fiddling with a neighbor’s door in the wee hours of the morning. Instead of running, Mims turned to Jones and inquired as to whether he could ask him a few questions.
Jones told him to hit the bricks, then watched as Mims went to several other houses along the street and tried the doorknobs before entering one of the residences. When the police arrived they found Mims riding away on a stolen bicycle.
Mims caught a break when the bike’s owner failed to show up in court, prompting the state to drop a charge of possession of stolen property. But a jury convicted him of attempted first-degree burglary and attempted felonious breaking or entering.
The court took mercy on Mims, a habitual felon, after determining that he suffered from a “mental condition that was insufficient to constitute a defense but significantly reduced [his] culpability for the offense.”
He was sentenced to about eight to 10 years in prison.
In his appeal, Mims essentially argued that if he’d really been trying to break into the houses he would’ve been slicker about it.
But the appellate court, which pointed out the fact that Mims failed to explain how his bizarre behavior – trying to get into other people’s homes at 4 a.m., etc. – could have been “non-criminal.”
The court based its opinion on the 1887 case of State v. McBryde, which held that a defendant’s uninvited presence in someone else’s house in the middle of the night was enough to prove intent to commit larceny.
The burglar in that case was caught in the act at 2 a.m. It is unclear whether he knocked before entering the house in question.