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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Larry Whitfield
United States
Decided By 
(for the petitioner)
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

On September 26, 2008, Larry Whitfield and Quanterrious McCoy attempted to rob the Fort Financial Credit Union in Gastonia, North Carolina. After their robbery attempt was foiled by the bank’s security system, the two fled. McCoy was later found hiding under a van, while Whitfield entered the Parnell residence and attempted to contact a getaway vehicle. Mary Parnell was subsequently pronounced dead of a heart attack. Whitfield was arrested nearby and signed a confession admitting to breaking into several homes as well as the attempted bank robbery.

A grand jury indicted McCoy and Whitfield on several counts relating to the failed robbery, but only Whitfield was indicted for forcing someone to accompany him and killing that person while trying to avoid being apprehended for the commission of a crime. Whitfield moved to dismiss this charge and argued that it was unconstitutionally vague and that the prosecution was required to prove that he intentionally caused Parnell’s death. The district court denied the motion. Prior to the jury’s deliberations, the district court instructed the jury that, in order to find Whitfield guilty of the additional charge, it only needed to find that his actions were the proximate cause of Parnell’s death, and it did not include a minimum limit on the degree of accompaniment necessary. Whitfield objected to the instruction and the court overruled the objection. Whitfield was found guilty, but on the additional charge he was found guilty of forcing Parnell to accompany him, not of killing her. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated Whitfield’s conviction and remanded the case for rehearing on the issue of whether or not the district court constructively amended the indictment in its jury instructions. On remand, the district court again found Whitfield guilty and the Court of Appeals affirmed.


Does the forced accompaniment offense require proof of more than minimum movement on the part of the victim?

Decision: 9 votes for United States, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. §2113(e)

No. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. The Court held that forced accompaniment occurs when a person requires another to “go with” him, even when that movement occurs over a short distance such as within the same building. While the word “accompany” indicates movement over distance, that distance needs only be from one place to another, and therefore can be relatively short. The Court held that a plain reading of the word “accompany” does not connote movement over a substantial distance, and the statute should not be read in such a manner.

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WHITFIELD v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 03 September 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2014/2014_13_9026>.
WHITFIELD v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2014/2014_13_9026 (last visited September 3, 2015).
"WHITFIELD v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 3, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2014/2014_13_9026.