One of the central issues for the jury to decide in every robbery case is the identification of the suspect. The state will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is the person who in fact committed the robbery. A conviction will not stand if it is based on inaccurate testimony.
A person can be charged with simple robbery in Minnesota when there is a taking of personal property from a victim through the use of force or the threat of force. Aggravated robbery occurs when a suspect uses a dangerous weapon or inflicts bodily harm to remove personal property from the victim.
What factors does the jury examine when deciding whether or not a defendant committed a robbery? The court will instruct the jury to consider factors such as the opportunity of the witness to see the suspect at the time of the offense. Was the suspect wearing a hat with a visor covering the head and partially covering the face of the suspect? This lack of opportunity to view the suspect could raise reasonable doubt in mind of the jury. A second factor is the length of time the witness had to view the suspect. The shorter the observation time, the greater the doubt since the mind doesn’t have the time to process the information. The third factor concerns the circumstances surrounding the view of the suspect by the witness. What were the lighting conditions, dark with shadows? What was the distance between the witness and the suspect? Where there any obstructions present to block the view? The fourth factor concerns the stress the victim was under at the time of the robbery. Stress has a way of distorting our memory and casts doubt on the accuracy of any identification. A witness who experienced the intense stress of a robbery may wrongly report to police the height, weight and facial features of the suspect placing at risk the freedom of an innocent person who happens to match the descripiton. The final factor relates to the length of time that passed between the time of the robbery and the time the witness identified the suspect in a photo lineup. The greater the length of time, the greater the risk for misidentification since the accuracy of memory fades with time.
If you have been charged with robbery in Minnesota or Wisconsin, call criminal defense attorney Robert J. Shane for a free phone consultation at (612) 339-1024. Mr. Shane has 30 years of criminal defense experience and recently obtained an acquittal for a client charged with aggravated robbery in Hennepin County, Minnesota.