New Jersey v. Dekowski

Defendant Christopher Dekowski entered a bank carrying what looked like a briefcase, went to a teller’s counter, and with the use of a note demanded money and threatened that he had a bomb. The bank manager did as she was told and gave defendant cash. A jury convicted defendant of first-degree robbery. In New Jersey v. Williams, the Supreme Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction of first-degree robbery for threatening a bank teller with a deadly weapon in the course of committing a theft despite having been unarmed on only having made the threat of use of a deadly weapon. The Court held that to find the defendant guilty of first-degree robbery in a simulated deadly weapon case, the victim must have an actual and reasonable belief that the defendant threatened the immediate use of such a weapon. The Appellate Division overturned the first-degree conviction in this case finding the evidence insufficient to prove that defendant simulated possession of a deadly weapon. In rendering that decision, the panel referred to the failure of the State’s witnesses to express in their testimony that “they believed defendant had a bomb in the briefcase, or that he led them to believe that it contained a bomb, or even that it was shaped in such a way that it was likely to hold a bomb.” The panel concluded that the evidence instead established second-degree robbery and remanded for resentencing. The Supreme Court reversed: "A terrorized victim cannot be expected to demand proof from the robber that he is armed with a deadly weapon, such as a bomb. [. . .] It is enough if the victim has an actual and reasonable belief that the robber has a bomb based on the totality of the circumstances, including defendant’s verbal threat, dress, any hand-held objects, and overall conduct." View "New Jersey v. Dekowski" on Justia Law