While it poured outside the Supreme Court yesterday morning the Justices inside heard arguments about a statute that imposes a minimum ten year sentence on a bank robber who “forces another person to accompany him”.
Larry Whitfield and an accomplice, armed with an AK-47 and a .357, tried to rob a Gastonia, North Carolina credit union but were foiled by a metal detector that automatically locked the bulletproof lobby doors. Fleeing in a Crown Victoria they crashed into the median. Whitfield got away, while his accomplice was caught.
The would-be bank robber, who had ditched his firearm, first broke into a vacant house but when the owner showed up he threatened her with a knife and ran. Next, he entered the home of 79-year-old Mary Parnell. He forced Parnell to accompany him a few feet into a room where he called and texted a friend, telling a terrified Parnell, “Ma’am, just calm down. I’m probably more scared than you are, and I’m actually just trying to leave.”
Mary Parnell was having a heart attack and died. Whitfield got 20 years for the robbery plus five for forcing Parnell to accompany him to the other room.
The case is Whitfield v. U.S.