On December 13, 1988, 22-year-old Theopolis Wilson was arrested for the burglary earlier that day in which a stereo and VCR were stolen from an apartment in Racine, Wisconsin.
He went on trial before a jury in Racine County Circuit Court in September 1989. John Herendon, a resident of the apartment, said he was awakened in the early morning hours by the sound of someone unhooking the VCR and confronted Wilson.
He asked Wilson what he was doing there and Wilson replied, “Someone sent me.” Herendon said that the door to the apartment appeared to be damaged, but admitted that it was “kind of flimsy” and that “anybody could pop it open.”
He said that he called police after Wilson left and that his roommate, May Lee Harries, showed up at the apartment at about the same time police arrived. Herendon admitted on cross-examination that when he identified Wilson to police, Harries knew who he was talking about.
Wilson testified that Harries, an acquaintance, had given him her car keys and allowed him to drive her car to the apartment to get the stereo and VCR as payment for drugs. He said that Harries told him the apartment door would be unlocked. He told the jury that the door wasn’t locked, but was stuck and that he gave it a push and it came open.
Wilson sought to introduce Harries’s out of court statements when she could not be located to testify. The trial judge refused to allow the statements as inadmissible hearsay.
On September 6, 1989, Wilson was convicted of burglary and sentenced to five years in prison.
On January 16, 1991, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, ruling that the statements should have been admitted not for the truth of the statements, but for their effect on his state of mind—that he believed he had consent to enter to remove the items.
On March 19, 1991, the Racine County District Attorney dismissed the case. Wilson remained in prison, serving a sentence on another unrelated conviction.
– Maurice Possley