August 22, 2012 4th Circuit published opinion

United States v Whitfield

Whitfield was charged with attempted bank robbery and home invasion crimes. One count charged he either killed or forcibly detained someone while avoiding arrest. He moved to suppress his statements to police. The trial court ultimately suppressed his statements about the attempted robbery based on overbearance of will, but allowed the statements about the home invasions. The court added a ground on the evasion charge that the forcible detention caused death. Whitfield was convicted of all counts and sentenced to life plus 25 years. The panel affirmed in part and remanded in part. It affirmed the admission of the home invasion statements as the police misrepresentation of the seriousness of the charges against Whitfield did not overbear his will. The panel rejected a claim of jury instruction error as to a lesser included offense holding the evidence supported conviction on the greater offense and the error, if any, did not affect his substantial rights and as to the definition of forced accompaniment as the instructions as a whole accurately stated the law that forced movement within a building can support a conviction. The panel concluded the statute creating the forced accompanying offense also created a separate offense of forced accompaniment resulting in death and did not list sentencing factors. Thus, the trail court erred in giving the death resulting charge as that offense was not charged in the indictment. The panel therefore vacated the conviction and the mandatory life sentence and remanded for resentencing. It finally held that evidence that Whitfield told the elderly victim to go into another room in the house for the purpose of keeping her out of the sight of the police was sufficient to uphold the forced accompanying charge.

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