Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Carjacking Conviction Affirmed Where Defendant Brandished Gun, Made Verbal Threat

US v. Robinson: Crawford had gone into labor. She and her boyfriend were hurrying toward her car when they saw three men - Robinson and his confederates - carrying guns and wearing masks. Robinson got to the car and started banging on the window before the boyfriend could get the door open. Boyfriend promptly fled. Robinson and the others walked Crawford back to her apartment, Robinson asking "do you want to die?" Unable to get into the apartment (the key had fallen off Crawford's key ring when the boyfriend took off), Robinson grabbed Crawford's key ring and he and another man (it's unclear what happened to the third) drove away in her car. Robinson and his codefendant were later apprehended and charged with carjacking, use of a firearm during a crime of violence, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Robinson was convicted by a jury on all three charges.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed Robinson's convictions. Robinson argued that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the carjacking conviction because there wasn't enough proof that he had the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury at the time he took Crawford's car keys. The court noted that while the codefendant testified that they never would have hurt Crawford (since she was in labor), Robinson had nonetheless pointed a gun at her and asked if she wanted to die. While a jury could go either way as to which of those pieces of evidence to credit, it was "a question of fact, and it is clearly the jury's duty, not ours, to decide it." It didn't matter that the carjacking was an "afterthought" when the robbery went south. Robinson also argued that his felon in possession charge was duplicitous because it charged both actual possession of the pistol he was carrying and constructive possession of the shotgun his codefendant carried. After noting that Robinson couldn't raise that challenge now because it wasn't raised prior to trial, the court went on to hold that there was no problem, anyway, because simultaneous possession of multiple firearms can only be a single violation of the felon in possession statute.

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