SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Although Jacqueline Krouse was convicted in 2021 of intentionally in burning down her $1 million house in 2019, her lawyer argued today that there was no evidence to support that conviction.

“It’s important to note that we’ve viewed this as a specific intent statute,” lawyer Shawn M. Nichols said of the arson charge for which Krouse was convicted.

Nichols argued his Krouse’s case before the South Dakota Supreme Court on April 27. The state’s case was presented by assistant attorney general Stephen Gemar.

The heart of Nichols’ appeal of the March 2021 guilty verdict of arson is in how the state used information from a State Farm insurance investigation and how there is no evidence to show that Krouse intended to start the fire to collect insurance money.

The two lawyers each had 20 minutes to argue before the court. Nichols also had several minutes to rebut the Gemar’s argument.

Despite the city fire department investigator’s conclusion that the cause of the fire was undetermined, the state used information from the State Farm investigation to make its case, Nichols said.

State Farm essentially acted on behalf of the state. “State Farm functioned as the party filling in the shoes of the state,” Nichols said.

That was in violation of Krouse’s constitutional rights, Nichols said. As an example, Krouse was questioned by a State Farm investigator without the rightful ability to not incriminate herself. That is one reason why the Supreme Court should dismiss the lower court’s guilty verdict, Nichols argued.

The state made its case and the evidence supports the guilty verdict, Gemar said.

State Farm followed the law, Gemar said. When State Farm investigators discovered a video camera in the area where the fire started, the company contacted legal authorities, Gemar said.

A State Farm investigator looked into the fire because city fire investigator estimated the loss at more than $300,000, Gemar said.

The video found during that investigation shows that Krouse intended to start the fire, Gemar said.

Gemar said the video shows a kitchen box -like object in one of Krouse’s hands and shows Krouse using a striking motion.

The video shows smoldering fire and Krouse’s reaction to it, Gemar said.

“Her first reaction is to turn around and stare at the fire for 20 seconds. She is just standing there watching a growing fire,” Gemar said.

Supreme Court Justices Patricia J. DeVaney and Janice Kern had several questions about the video evidence including evidence the state said shows Krouse watching the fire and the state’s evidence that says no smoke was shown until Krouse entered the fire area.

Nichols said the whole of the evidence needs to be considered. Krouse did try and put out the fire, Nichols said. She was also left the home in her bare feet and left her pets behind.

But, Gemar said, Krouse put her purse and other personal items in her car before the fire.

The state’s case said Krouse burned the home down for to collect insurance money she needed.

Although a divorce settlement resulted in a $100,000 payments months before the fire, Krouse only had $16,000 of it left when the fire happened, Gemar said.

The state had nothing in circumstantial evidence of financial trouble, Nichols said. Nichols cited alimony payments and that Krouse was current on her bills.

Nichols said although the state cited insurance in its case, the support for that was weak. Krouse filed a claim but the amount of the claim is not in the record, Nichols said.

“There isn’t any evidence in the record as to what insurance she had,” Nichols said.

The state incorrectly used the condition of the home as a reason to justify the arson case, Nichols said.

Nichols said Krouse planned to sell the home and had it inspected before putting it up for sale, Nichols said.

The inspection identified what Nichols said were minor problems that could be fixed. Water that was referred to in the state’s case was a minor issue, he said.

The home inspection showed there was an active rodent problem in the attic. There were also other problems that required contractors, Gemar said.

The problems that needed fixing also point to motivation and intent to start the fire, Gemar said.

Kern asked Gemar about Nichols argument on the insurance claim.

“Although the claim itself is not on the record that fact that she was insured as well as filed the claim was in the record,” Gemar said. That was noted by the circuit court in the matter, he said.

When the submission of the insurance claim is looked at in conjunction of the video, and other evidence is considered, it is part of the evidence for intent, Gemar said.

All the evidence shows Krouse is guilty and the court should affirm that verdict, Gemar said.

“This court has shown a reluctance to disturb the findings of a lower court as a matter of fact. When it comes to specific intent, this court has repeatedly held that that means something and has not hesitated to hold that higher bar to matters of specific intent,” Nichols said.

As to the matter of specific intent, the Supreme Court should reverse the verdict in the Krouse case, Nichols said.

Before Krouse’s case was completed in the lower court, she had filed for a judgment of acquittal after the state concluded its evidence presentation in her March 16, 2021, trial before the court.

The circuit court denied an acquittal.

The court determined that the State proved Krouse’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The State vs. Krouse was presented before the Supreme Court at noon CT on Wednesday, April 26.