Supreme Court

Supreme Court Rules Against Bank Robber in Forced-Accompaniment Case

9-0 decision affirming criminal conviction.

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In a 9-0 decision issued today, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of bank robber Larry Whitfield under a federal statute which increases the penalties for anyone who "forces any person to accompany him" while robbing a bank or fleeing from a bank robbery. At issue in Whitfield v. United States was whether this statute applied to the facts of Whitfield's crime, in which he sought to escape a failed bank robbery by hiding inside the home of 79-year-old Mary Parnell. After entering Parnell's home via an unlocked door, Whitfield confronted the woman in her hallway and moved her to a nearby computer room. Parnell died a few minutes later in that room from a heart attack. According to Whitfield, because he only moved Parnell a "short distance," his actions did not amount to forced accompaniment and therefore should not trigger enhanced federal penalties.

Credit: C-SPAN

Writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia rejected Whitfield's arguments:

It is true enough that accompaniment does not embrace minimal movement—for example, the movement of a bank teller's feet when the robber grabs her arm. It must constitute movement that would normally be described as from one place to another, even if only from one spot within a room or outdoors to a different one. Here, Whitfield forced Parnell to accompany him for at least several feet, from one room to another. That surely sufficed….

The Congress that wrote this provision may well have had most prominently in mind John Dillinger's driving off with hostages, but it enacted a provision which goes well beyond that. It is simply not in accord with English usage to give "accompany" a meaning that covers only large distances.

In short, Scalia concluded, "Whitfield forced Parnell to 'accompany him.'"

The Supreme Court's opinion in Whitfield v. United States is available here.

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  1. Not sure why this went to the SC. It’s hair-splitting.

    1. I can see why it wen to the Court, I don’t see why the Court agreed to hear it, when there are other more complicated and critical cases that they decline to hear.

      Or they could be like cops, and go for the low-hanging fruit in order to avoid thinking too hard.

      1. go for the low-hanging fruit

        Probably this. Particularly since John-Boy has shown he just wants to be liked.

      2. They need some cases that are easy 9-0 for bonding purposes.

    2. SCOTUS is all about split ends. They don’t want to tackle big, meaty issues, they want to dabble around the details.

  2. The Congress that wrote this provision may well have had most prominently in mind John Dillinger’s driving off with hostages, but it enacted a provision which goes well beyond that. It is simply not in accord with English usage to give “accompany” a meaning that covers only large distances.

    *shrug* seems like a good ruling.

  3. I think they only heard this case as a way to improve their record, considering the many travesties they have inflicted on us. Still, fuck Larry Whitfield.

  4. I thought bank robbery, kidnapping and murder were already illegal. Was this guy going to go free without this ruling? WTF?

    1. I thought bank robbery, kidnapping and murder were already illegal.

      The first thing I thought on reading was “wait, isn’t kidnapping already illegal?” Typical congressional legislation. Look like you’re “doing something” by making a more wordy law for what is already a crime.

      1. Now, if the gunslinger points his shootin’ arn at me and orders me to do this or do that, can we slap him with

        18 U.S.C. ? 1589

        Whoever knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person–

        (1) by threats of serious harm to, or physical restraint against, that person or another person;

        (2) by means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if the person did not perform such labor or services, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint; or

        (3) by means of the abuse or threatened abuse of law or the legal process,

        shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If death results from the violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the defendant shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or life, or both.

        Or maybe robbery subsumes physical control of a person already? – Kevin R

  5. I agree that Miguel `s st0rry is flabbergasting, last saturday I got a new Lotus Esprit from earning $8938 this past 4 weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . without a doubt it is the most comfortable work I’ve had . I began this 4 months ago and pretty much straight away was bringin in minimum $86… per-hr . Visit Website ~~~~~~~~ http://www.jobsfish.com

    1. Flabbergasting?! What, did Miguel take hostages too?

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