Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF IRON COUNTY Honorable Sidney T.
E. SCOTT, J.
Rice appeals his conviction for manufacturing
methamphetamine. Although he was arrested in a trailer that
had meth-making ingredients, meth residue, and an active meth
lab then filling the premises with toxic fog, Rice asserts
that no reasonable jury could have concluded that he was
involved in meth-making, and that the court also erred in
denying a mistrial request. We affirm.
by an informant, officers approached a single-wide trailer in
rural Iron County and, while still outside, noted an
"extremely strong" ammonia odor indicative of meth
production emanating from within. They knocked and announced
their presence, but received no response, then entered the
trailer where they met thick haze or fog that burned their
eyes and irritated their lungs. Present throughout the
trailer, this fog was among the strongest these officers had
encountered in their many meth lab investigations.
officers escorted Rice and another man, who were feigning
sleep in the living room, outdoors for their safety and to
ventilate the trailer. After securing a search warrant, the
officers found meth-making material throughout the trailer
along with liquid and solid meth residue. A propane heater,
such as used to evaporate liquid meth to solid, was within
arm's reach of where Rice had pretended to be asleep. An
active meth lab in a bedroom was visible from the living
room, generating the trailer-wide fog.
trial where Rice declined to testify or present evidence, the
defense acknowledged the meth-making, but challenged the
inference that Rice was involved. Jurors took less than 15
minutes to find Rice guilty, and he was sentenced to prison
as a persistent offender.
admits the State's proof was sufficient to show that he
knew meth was being manufactured in the trailer, but denies
it was sufficient to show that he (1) actually or
constructively possessed the meth-making materials, or (2)
engaged or was complicit in the manufacturing process.
to all factors and the totality of circumstances to determine
whether incriminating circumstances sufficiently connected
Rice to the meth-making materials and operation.
Zetina-Torres, 482 S.W.3d at 808. It is not whether
this court believes the evidence proved Rice's guilt, but
whether, viewing the record most favorably to the State, any
rational fact-finder could have found the crime's
essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at
806. The State may meet its burden with circumstantial
evidence, which "is given the same weight as direct
evidence in considering whether there was sufficient evidence
to support a conviction." State v. Alexander,
505 S.W.3d 384, 393 (Mo.App. 2016).
Rice did not exclusively control the trailer, the State
needed "some incriminating evidence" from which
Rice's access to and control over the meth-making
materials could be inferred. State v. Farris, 125
S.W.3d 382, 387-88 (Mo.App. 2004). These might include
proximity to materials in plain view, presence of a strong
odor, and consciousness of guilt, which includes attempts to
deceive the police, id. at 388, all of which could
be found in this case. Further, a strong odor associated with
meth production can "provide incriminating evidence of
the intent to manufacture methamphetamine."
State v. Davis, 147 S.W.3d 84, 88 (Mo.App. 2004)
(our emphasis). Moreover, Rice faked being asleep in
circumstances where that would have been impossible (as we
must view the record), allowing jurors to infer Rice's
consciousness of guilt. Compare State v. Girardier,
484 S.W.3d 356, 362 (Mo.App. 2015) (not responding when
addressed and attempting to disguise oneself can demonstrate
consciousness of guilt).
such evidence, jurors could reasonably draw the inferences
necessary to find Rice guilty of the crime's essential
elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Zetina-Torres,
482 S.W.3d at 806. This jury was instructed that Rice's
presence at the scene was not alone sufficient to find him
guilty. See MAI-CF.3d 310.08 (2013). We presume that
instruction was followed. State v. Fritz, 480 S.W.3d
316, 328 (Mo.App. 2016). Which evidence is believed and what
inferences are drawn is "left to the jury, not to judges
deciding what reasonable jurors must and must not do."
State v. Jackson, 433 S.W.3d 390, 399 (Mo. banc
2014). Presented with competing inferences to be drawn from
the evidence, this jury rejected the defense's inferences
and accepted the State's, as it was free to do. See
State v. Ralston, 400 S.W.3d 511, 518-19 (Mo.App. 2013).
the totality of circumstances, and as we must view the
record, there was sufficient incriminating evidence for
jurors to find Rice guilty of manufacturing methamphetamine
as charged, either alone or in conjunction with others. Point