In a recent Massachusetts appellate case, the defendant appealed from a conviction for larceny of more than $250 under MGL c. 266 section 30(1). The defendant argued that the jury should have been given an instruction related to his defense of honest yet mistaken belief that the property was abandoned, and that the lower court should have granted his motion for a required not guilty finding.
The case arose when the defendant and two other people with a pickup torch and a blowtorch were on another man’s land. The land was fenced off, and no trespassing signs were posted. Access to the area where the defendant and his friends were was through a closed gate that wasn’t always locked, but had a chain. On the day at issue, the landowner’s son found the gate open. A metal cutting screener had been cut with the blowtorch and piece of it had been taken from the land. When he approached the defendant and his friends, the defendant ran. However, while he was talking to the friends, the defendant asked him not to call the cops and asked if they could work something out.
The landowner’s son called the cops. When a police officer arrived, the defendant told him that he and the other men had cut metal from the screener for days and brought it to the scrap yard for cash. The defendant gave the police officer a receipt, and then he was arrested and charged with larceny.