A New York Robbery Lawyer discusses the details of a court case that illustrates the difference between first and second degree robbery.
A, B, and T were brought before the court on charges of first degree robbery. B and T were found guilty of the charges while A was acquitted (found innocent). B and T submitted an appeal to the Court of Appeals for a review of the case.
According to reports, on March 6, 1964, M, a taxi driver, was driving along Bronx River Avenue, in the Bronx, when he was hailed by T, A, and B. Tillman sat behind him while B sat in the middle and Anderson, on the right side. M said that he saw T reach over and take his money changer. T was holding a gun. Then, one of the other men grabbed his throat. During the struggle, M said he also saw B holding a gun.
A was found innocent of the robbery charges. M explained that he did not see do anything during the whole incident and that he did not have a gun. T was charged with the Sullivan Act, a gun control law, but was later found innocent. B was also found innocent of illegal gun possession because of a lack of evidence. No one could really say if B was just holding the gun, if he owned it, or if it actually belonged to Mangum.
In the end, both T and B were found guilty of first degree robbery.
After reviewing the facts of the case, the Court of Appeals announced that it agreed with the decision of the Trial Court. The evidence establishes “without a reasonable doubt” that a first degree robbery had indeed taken place.
The expert explains that first degree robbery is the illegal taking of another person’s property with the use of a deadly weapon, and with the help of another person. Both are present in this case.
Justice Benjamin Rabin however, did not agree with the majority. He believes that given the fact of the case, the charge against T and B could have been second degree robbery. He explains that if there is evidence that the people on trial are not guilty of the the crime charged, but guilty of a lesser crime, then the lesser crime should be charged.
How could T and B not be guilty of first degree robbery? Justice Rabin explains that since Brown was found innocent of illegal possession of a gun, the only way he could be involved in the crime was if he was the man who grabbed M’s throat. But even M was not sure who actually grabbed his throat. Assuming that it’s not B, then it would be possible for T to be the only man who committed the robbery.
Also, T was found innocent of illegal gun possession. That removes the deadly weapon element. Assuming that he was alone in committing the robbery, then the second element is also removed. Therefore, the jury could have found Tillman guilty of second degree robbery. The New York Robbery Lawyer defines this as robbery with the use of force.
Justice Rabin notes that because the second degree robbery charge was not included, then the jury could only choose between finding T guilty of first degree robbery, or finding him innocent.
Although, neither of the parties appealed to have second degree robbery included as a charge, Justice Rabin’s belief is that the original judgment could have been unfair to both B and T. He says that the Court still can decide on a retrial if it wants to, and that it should.