United States v. Wesley

417 F.3d 612 (6th Cir. 2005)



Under the "substantial step" analysis for attempt, an appellate court evaluates whether any reasonable person could find that the acts committed would corroborate the firmness of a defendant's criminal intent, assuming that the defendant did, in fact, intend to commit the crime. The requirement does not mandate that the activity constituting a substantial step must be sufficient to prove that the defendant had the subjective, specific intent to commit a crime. The intent may need to be proven separately.


Defendant told the informant that he planned to rob a bank. The informant contacted the police, which conducted an investigation. The informant called defendant to try to find out when the robbery would occur. The police, believing that a bank robbery was imminent, obtained a warrant and arrested defendant at his home. There was evidence that defendant had attempted to recruit someone else to participate in the robbery. A jury found defendant guilty of attempted bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2113(a). Defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that errors in the admission of evidence warranted a new trial. The appellate court reversed defendant's conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.



Was the evidence sufficient to establish that defendant took a substantial step toward commission of the robbery?




A rational juror could have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant's conduct, when viewed objectively, unequivocally corroborated his subjective intent to commit bank robbery. While the fact that defendant was arrested at his home an hour away from the bank indicated that the robbery might not have been as imminent as it seemed to the police, it did not negate evidence from which the jury could have found defendant intended to rob the bank or that he planned to do it soon. Although defendant did not tell the informant that the robbery was happening the next day, he did not disavow his plan or indicate he was having second thoughts when talking to her. Defendant's conduct clearly corroborated his criminal intent and, thus, was sufficient to support his attempt conviction.

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