Monday, April 18, 2016

No Intent to Kill In Carjacking Case Without Weapon

US v. Bailey: Bailey was the driver of a car that got into a high-speed chase with police. When he wrecked the car, Bailey got out and fled on foot to a nearby parking lot. There, he approached a pickup truck with three people inside while he was "panicked and bloodied." He asked the driver for a ride and offered to pay, but the driver said no. A "flurry of activity" allowed Bailey to get into the back seat. The two passengers got out, but the driver stayed put, at which point Bailey told him to "drive, drive, drive," while placing something "hard and cold" against the driver's neck. The driver never saw a gun and didn't know what Bailey pressed against his neck but was certain Bailey "was about to kill [him]." He jumped from the truck. Bailey got behind the wheel and sped off, eventually to be captured. Bailey was charged with carjacking under 18 USC 2119, convicted by a jury, and sentenced to 105 months in prison.

On appeal the Fourth Circuit unanimously reversed Bailey's conviction. The court concluded that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction for carjacking. Specifically, section 2119 requires an "intent to cause death or serious bodily injury" to sustain a conviction for carjacking. The court rejected the Government's argument that the totality of the evidence - Bailey's reckless driving, his appearance when he approached the truck, and the "hard and cold" object - showed such intent. Even though Bailey conceded that he intended to scare the driver, that isn't enough to meet the 2119 threshold, particularly when no witness saw him with a weapon. Noting that 2119 requires a showing of a certain intent "at the precise moment" Bailey demanded or took control of the truck, the court concluded that the evidence did not show such an intent at that time.

Congrats to the Defender office in the Middle District of North Carolina on the win!

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