Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Featured Case - Birdsong - Robbery and "force" not aimed at victim

Birdsong v. Commonwealth, 2009-SC-000084— rendered April 21, 2011.

Opinion of the Court Affirming (no justice named).

Venters, J., dissents by separate opinion in which Minton, C.J., joins.

In this case, the Kentucky Supreme Court held that a person can be found guilty of second-degree Robbery as long as “force” is used, even if that force is not aimed at a victim, but is instead aimed at inanimate objects.  Mr. Birdsong, after ordering bank tellers in a loud voice to give him the money, slammed through the teller door and pushed computer equipment on the ground.  Two tellers testified that they felt threatened.  In determining the definition of the word “threaten,” the Court used a definition from the American Heritage Dictionary, which defined the word as “1 . To express a threat against. 2 . To be a source of danger to; menace. 3 . To portend. 4. To indicate danger or harm ." American Heritage Dictionary 840 (3d ed. 1992).  Moreover, a "threat" is "l . An expression of an intention to inflict pain, injury, or evil. 2 . One regarded as a possible danger." Id.  There were two dissenters, who noted that the General Assembly intended that the word “threaten” be considered an active word, describing the actions of the accused, rather than a passive word which includes the impressions of the victims. 

Contributed by Brandon Jewell