This appeal is from a conviction for the offense of felony theft. Punishment was assessed at five years.
In his sole ground of error appellant contends the trial court erred in admitting, over objection, evidence which tended to show he committed an extraneous offense.
Gene Elliott testified that he was standing in front of the radiator shop were he was employed, on West 2nd Street, in Austin, on the afternoon of April 28, 1970, when he observed a certain described 1961 or 1962 white Buick auto parked beside a lawn mower display in the driveway of the B. F. Goodrich store directly across the street. He observed appellant bent over the trunk of said automobile "... like he was putting or taking something out of it." Elliott testified he then saw two white handles of a lawn mower or lawn mowers sticking out of the trunk of the car. According to Elliott, appellant tied the trunk down, got in the car and sped away at a fast rate of speed. After noticing two lawn mowers missing from the display and having seen two handles sticking out of appellant's car, Elliott walked across the street to the B. F. Goodrich store to ask if they had sold two lawn mowers and learned that no such sale had been made. C. F. Cofer, the manager of the B. F. Goodrich store, testified that an inventory was taken after Elliott's report and it was determined two lawn mowers with white handles were missing. The license number and description of the car appellant drove was given to police.
Sergeant Bob Simpson, of the Austin Police Department, testified that he located the automobile identified as the one used by appellant on April 28, 1970 (the date of the instant offense). Then the record reflects the following:
"Q. (By the prosecutor) What day was it you recovered the car, sir?
"Q. Did you sometime thereafter have occasion to see this defendant, Mr. Charles Lee Powell, sir?
"A. I did.
"Q. Where was that, sir?
"A. At the Austin Police Department.
"Q. Did you have occasion, sir, on that date, accompanied by another officer, to take a look at Mr. Powell's arms?
"A. I did.
"Q. Did you see anything there on them, sir?
"A. I did.
"Q. Would you state for the Court and jury what it was, sir?" (Emphasis supplied.)
An objection was made at this juncture; the jury was retired; and the testimony was developed as to what the officer observed on appellant's arm. Arguments were then heard by the court on the admissibility of such evidence and the court stated:
The court overruled the objection. The jury was then returned to the box and the following is revealed from the record:
"Q.... On the day in question at which you saw this defendant at the police station, sir, did you have occasion to look at his arms, sir?
"A. Yes, sir, I did.
"Q. Now, sir, did you see anything on them, sir?
"A. Yes, sir, I did.
"Q. What did you see, sir?
"A. I saw needle tracks and holes, one fresh.
"Q. Now, sir, how long have you been a police officer?
"A. A total of almost 20 years.
"Q. Prior to this time have you ever seen marks similar to those, sir?
"A. Yes, sir.
"Q. And what are they associated with, sir?
"A. With narcotic addiction.
"Q. When you looked at the defendant's arm on that day, sir, did you state you saw blood on it?
"A. Yes, sir, one track. One place still had a little seepage of fresh blood.
"Q. When you say `track,' sir, would you explain to the jury what you mean, please, sir?
"A. Yes, sir. A track is terminology that we use when we're talking about— When an addict gives himself a shot in the larger vein, usually in the armpit, they constantly move down just a little bit to get away from the soreness, and it leaves scars, in other words, scar tissue. After it gets to be some length it's known as a track."
In Young v. State, 159 Tex.Cr.R. 164, at page 165, 261 S.W.2d 836, at page 837, this court stated:
See also, Chandler v. State, Tex.Cr.App., 417 S.W.2d 68; Hafti v. State, Tex.Cr. App., 416 S.W.2d 824; Taylor v. State, 138 Tex.Cr.R. 161, 134 S.W.2d 277; Williams
There are exceptions to the general rule. See 23 Tex.Jur.2d, Evidence, Sec. 195, at page 300, where it is written:
See also, Bryant v. State, Tex.Cr.App., 471 S.W.2d 66; Owens v. State, Tex.Cr.App., 450 S.W.2d 324.
Another exception to the general rule is when such evidence shows flight of the accused. e. g. Woods v. State, Tex. Cr.App., 480 S.W.2d 664 (1972); Thames v. State, Tex.Cr.App., 453 S.W.2d 495; Cox v. State, 170 Tex.Cr.R. 128, 338 S.W.2d 711; Israel v. State, 158 Tex.Cr.R. 574, 258 S.W.2d 82.
In the case at bar Witness Elliott made positive identification of the appellant.
The appellant did not testify nor offer any defense. There was positive proof of the state's case. No issue as to identity, intent, scienter, system, design, or malice was raised by cross-examination or otherwise. There was no defensive theory to rebut and this was not a circumstantial evidence case.
The statement in the instant case: "I saw needle tracks and holes, one fresh," which tended to show an extraneous offense, was not part of the res gestae. This case is unlike Gomez v. State, Tex.Cr.App., 470 S.W.2d 871, and Feather v. State, 169 Tex. Cr.R. 334, 333 S.W.2d 851, where the accused in each case was charged with the unlawful possession of narcotics and the observations were made at the time of the offense or arrest. Gomez v. State, supra, held that the physical condition of appellant at the time of the offense is material in rejecting the contention that the admission of the testimony that appellant's left arm bore infected needle tracks was error. Feather v. State, supra, held that testimony of "punctures on appellant's arm" observed at the time of the search of appellant's bedroom was not error.
Further, this case is unlike Riley v. State, 168 Tex.Cr.R. 417, 328 S.W.2d 306, wherein the accused was charged and convicted of the offense of burglary. The defendant therein was seen by the arresting officer inside a pharmacy at 1:00 A.M. As the officer attempted to enter the building, the defendant left through a side door carrying two gallon jugs, one of which was shown to be full of paregoric and the other, half-full of Brown's mixture, both of which contained opium. A search of the defendant at the scene revealed that he had seven boxes of hypodermic needles in his coat pocket. During the trial the defendant testified and was cross-examined as to whether he was a narcotic addict. Therein this court held:
In Riley there was clearly an affirmative link connecting the burglary and narcotics.
The testimony in the case at bar was admitted to show motive. The state contends "that the evidence of appellant's addiction would tend to show motive for theft. That is, a narcotic habit requires money to support it and committing the theft would further appellant's habit."
We agree with the reasoning in United States v. Mullings, supra. The chain of inferences is too long and contains too many gaps to allow the introduction of evidence of needle marks alone to show possible motive for theft. The prejudicial effect of such evidence far outweighs any probative value it might have. To admit such testimony without showing some affirmative link between the theft and narcotics would show only that the accused is "a criminal generally". This, the general rule heretofore quoted prohibits. Young v. State, supra.
For the reasons stated, the judgment is reversed and the cause remanded.