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April 27, 2016

Conviction for armed robbery does not require victim to have reasonable belief that defendant possesses weapon

In People v. Henry, No. 325144, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a conviction for armed robbery does not require the victim to have a reasonable belief that the defendant was armed with a dangerous weapon.  Defendant entered a fast-food restaurant and demanded all of the money in the register while his hands were in the pocket of his hoodie.  The victim testified that Defendant’s hands were bulging forward, but was unsure whether Defendant had a weapon.  Defendant was convicted by a jury of armed robbery, and he appealed claiming that there was insufficient evidence that the victim had a reasonable belief that he possessed a dangerous weapon.
 
Based on the plain language of the armed robbery statute, the Court of Appeals reasoned that MCL 750.529 enumerates four separate manners to satisfy the dangerous-weapon element—and only some of which depend on the victim’s objective state of mind. The victim’s reasonable belief is relevant when the armed robbery charge is predicated on a defendant possessing an “article that would lead a person to reasonably believe that the article is a dangerous weapon.” However, the Court held that the statutes use of “or” between the different methods of satisfying the dangerous-weapon element means that the reasonable belief requirement does not apply to each of the four methods.  Since the statute does not use the reasonable-belief language when it lists “otherwise represents that he possesses a dangerous weapon,” a victim’s fear is irrelevant for that method. Here, in affirming Defendant’s armed robbery conviction, the Court held that Defendant having his hands in his hoodie that bulged forward was sufficient to satisfy the requirement that he possessed a dangerous weapon. The Court also affirmed the trial court’s ruling on a number of evidentiary issues, including the admission of evidence that Defendant allegedly robbed a convenience store in 2006.

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