CARTER v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
99-5716
Petitioner 
Carter
Respondent 
United States
Advocates
(on behalf of the Petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

In 1997, Floyd J. Carter donned a ski mask and entered the Collective Federal Savings Bank unarmed. In the process, Carter pushed an exiting customer back into the bank and startled customers already inside. Carter removed almost $16,000 from the bank and fled. After his apprehension, Carter was charged with federal bank robbery, 18 USC Section 2113(a), which punishes "[w]hoever, by force and violence, or by intimidation, takes... any... thing of value [from a] bank." Carter pleaded not guilty, claiming that he had not taken the bank's money by force, violence, or intimidation as required of robbery. Carter moved that the District Court instruct the jury that they could consider whether he committed federal bank larceny, USC Section 2113(b), as a lesser included offense in the broader crime of robbery, in which case, Carter could be guilty of larceny without being guilty of robbery. The larceny law punishes "[w]hoever takes and carries away, with intent to steal or purloin, any... thing of value exceeding $1,000 [from a]... bank," with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, as opposed to robbery's 20-year maximum. The District Court denied the motion. The jury, instructed on robbery alone, returned a guilty verdict. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Question 

May defendants charged with federal bank robbery have the jury consider whether they committed the lesser crime of federal bank larceny?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for United States, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 2113

No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court held that federal bank larceny is not a "lesser included offense" of federal bank robbery. The "[p]etitioner is accordingly prohibited as a matter of law from obtaining a lesser included offense instruction," wrote Justice Thomas for the Court. Justice Thomas concluded that the larceny law requires proof of three elements not included in robbery: the intent to steal, property worth more than $ 1,000, and proof that the defendant "takes and carries away" the property. Dissenting, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer, expressed the view that the Court's decision gave "short shrift to the common-law origin and statutory evolution of [18 USC Section 2113]."

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CARTER v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_99_5716>.
CARTER v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_99_5716 (last visited November 26, 2014).
"CARTER v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 26, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_99_5716.