416 F.3d 464 (6th Cir. 2005), 04-5611, United States v. Johnson

Docket Nº:04-5611.
Citation:416 F.3d 464
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Terance JOHNSON, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:August 05, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 464

416 F.3d 464 (6th Cir. 2005)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Terance JOHNSON, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 04-5611.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

August 5, 2005

Argued: April 18, 2005.

Page 465

ARGUED:

Robert L. Hutton, Glankler Brown, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellant. Tony R. Arvin, Assistant United States Attorney, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee. Steven J. Mulroy, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee, for Amicus Curiae.

ON BRIEF:

Robert L. Hutton,

Page 466

Glankler Brown, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellant. Tony R. Arvin, Assistant United States Attorney, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee. Steven J. Mulroy, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee, Wade V. Davies, Ritchie, Fels & Dillard, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Amicus Curiae. Tony R. Arvin, ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Steven J. Mulroy, CECIL C. HUMPHREYS SCHOOL OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS, Memphis, Tennessee, Wade V. Davies, RITCHIE, FELS & DILLARD, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Amicus Curiae.

Before: BOGGS, Chief Judge; RYAN and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

RYAN, Circuit Judge.

The defendant, Terance Johnson, appeals the district court's in limine ruling denying him the opportunity to present a duress defense to the charges against him for participating in an armed bank robbery in which a person was killed. Following this adverse ruling, Johnson entered a plea of guilty, conditioned on his being allowed to file this appeal.

We will AFFIRM.

Johnson was charged with: (1) bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a); (2) killing a person in the course of a bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. § 2113(e); (3) carrying, using, brandishing, and discharging a firearm in connection with a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and (4) killing another person in connection with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j).

The district court held that: (1) the defense of duress is not available, as a matter of law, to a charge of killing a person in the course of a bank robbery, sometimes informally called federal felony murder; and (2) even if it were, Johnson had not made out a prima facie case of duress. The first issue is one of first impression in this circuit, but we need not reach it, because we agree that, even if duress had been a defense available to Johnson, he failed to make out a prima facie case of duress, sufficient to entitle him to present the issue to the jury.

In bypassing the issue of the general availability of the duress defense to charges under 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(j) and 2113(e), we do not wish to be understood as agreeing or disagreeing with the district court's ruling on the matter; we simply do not reach it. But we do agree with the district court that the evidence proffered by Johnson as tending to prove his mental retardation is not relevant to whether he made out a prima facie case of duress.

I.

Early in the morning of July 23, 2001, Aaron Haynes and William Maxwell, who later in the day became Johnson's accomplices, decided to rob the Union Planters Bank in Memphis, Tennessee. While surveilling the bank in preparation for the robbery, Haynes and Maxwell entered the bank and encountered security guard James Jones. Fearing that Jones would recognize them when, later, they returned for the robbery, Haynes and Maxwell decided to enlist Johnson to participate in the robbery, primarily to shoot Jones. Haynes and Maxwell went to Johnson's home and roused him from bed. Johnson was not immediately told of the robbery plan; instead, Haynes and Maxwell told Johnson to come with them to "go smoke some marijuana and mess with some girls."

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