Case: State of Tennessee v. Antonio Henderson and Marvin Dickerson
Issue: May a defendant argue during closing argument that an offense was not aggravated robbery because the injury occurred after the taking of property?
Facts: Defendant allegedly demanded the possessions of the victims, who complied. Then, one of the victims attempted to take Defendant’s gun resulting in a struggle in which victim was shot. During closing argument, Defendant argued that the taking happened before the injury occurred, so there could not have been an aggravated robbery. The Prosecutor objected, contending Defendant mischaracterized the law. The trial court sustained the objection and instructed Defendant to “stop that line of argument.”
Appellate Decision: The intermediate court affirmed, agreeing that the argument was not in accordance with the holding in State v. Swift, 308 S.W.3d 827 (Tenn. 2010), which held that aggravated robbery requires injury to “occur prior to or contemporaneously with [the] taking.”
Review Granted: October 24, 2016 (for Henderson only, not his co-defendant).
Prediction: Ben thinks the supreme court will reverse. Defendant’s closing argument seems like a fair interpretation of Swift under the facts of this case. While the evidence may have been sufficient to support an aggravated robbery conviction, Defendant should have been allowed to advance the argument. The error was not harmless since closing arguments are constitutionally protected and the jury would have been influenced by the court’s ruling.