In Wisconsin an aider and abettor may be guilty not only of the particular crime that to his knowledge his confederates intend to commit, but also for different crimes committed that are a natural and probable consequence of the particular act that the defendant knowingly aided or encouraged. Proof of intent is not required for conviction of the different offense if the offense was the natural and probable consequence of the intended crime to which the defendant was a party.
A witness identified defendant as the one who stood across the street from a gas station as it was being robbed at gunpoint. Defendant raised an alibi defense. The trial court convicted him for aiding and abetting armed robbery and for aiding and abetting an injury by conduct regardless of life. Upon appeal of his convictions, the court of appeals held that the trial court committed reversible error by not instructing the jury that defendant's awareness that his principals would be armed was a necessary element of armed robbery. However, for a conviction as an aider and abettor under Wis. Stat. §§ 939.05(1), such awareness was not required because an armed robbery was the natural and probable consequence of a robbery. Indeed, robbery required the use of actual or threatened force. Wis. Stat. § 943.32. In any event, the State had proceeded at trial upon the theory that defendant had actual knowledge that his principals were armed and the pattern jury instructions on the liability of an aider and abettor to an armed robbery were properly given. However, the court of appeals should have determined the sufficiency of the evidence; if insufficient, retrial would be precluded.
Must the aider and abettor to armed robbery have had actual knowledge that the principals would be armed with a dangerous weapon to be convicted?
The Court held that for a conviction as an aider and abettor under Wis. Stat. §§ 939.05(1), such awareness was not required because an armed robbery was the natural and probable consequence of a robbery. If an armed robbery is found to be a natural and probable consequence of a robbery, the aider and abettor need not have had actual knowledge that the principals would be armed with a dangerous weapon.