April 29th, 2009 04:07 PM
10 years for ND during bank robbery
Court Upholds 10-Year Penalty for Robber’s Flub
By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: April 29, 2009
WASHINGTON — “This,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said on Wednesday in announcing one of the term’s less momentous Supreme Court decisions, “is the case of the bumbling bank robber.”
The bank robber, Christopher M. Dean, was wearing a mask and waving a gun, when he entered a branch of AmSouth Bank in Rome, Ga., in 2004, saying the usual things. Everyone, as instructed, got down. He walked behind the teller counter, grabbing cash with his left hand and holding his gun in his right hand.
The gun accidentally went off, hurting no one. Mr. Dean cursed and fled with $3,642.
He was caught, convicted and sentenced to 18 years, which included a mandatory additional sentence of 10 years for committing a crime in which a firearm “is discharged.” Mr. Dean argued that the extra time should not apply to accidental discharges.
“Accidents happen,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the 7-to-2 majority in the case, Dean v United States, No. 08-5274. “Sometimes they happen to individuals committing crimes with loaded guns.”
True, the chief justice said, “it is unusual to impose criminal punishment for the consequences of purely accidental conduct.” But criminals, he said, must bear the consequences of the unintended consequences of their unlawful acts.
Any sort of gunshot during a bank robbery, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “increases the risk that others will be injured, that people will panic or that violence (with its own danger to those nearby) will be used in response.”
The sentencing law does require that the discharge be “during and in relation to the crime.” At the argument last month, Justice Antonin Scalia asked Mr. Dean’s lawyer for an example of a gun discharge during a bank robbery that would not qualify.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer jumped in. “He sees a duck fly by the window and he’s a hunter,” Justice Breyer said, referring, perhaps, to one of Justice Scalia’s pastimes.
Justice Breyer and Justice John Paul Stevens dissented from Wednesday’s decision.
Chief Justice Roberts offered potential bank robbers some advice.
“Those criminals wishing to avoid the penalty for an inadvertent discharge,” he said, “can lock or unload the firearm, handle it with care during the underlying violent or drug trafficking crime, leave the gun at home, or — best yet — avoid committing the felony in the first place.”
April 29th, 2009 04:52 PM
to common sense from Washington, D.C.
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. - Jim Elliott
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.
April 29th, 2009 05:08 PM
April 29th, 2009 05:24 PM
At one time in NC, it was an automatic 40 yr sentence for bank robbery.
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