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10th Cir. Upholds Bank Robbery Conviction

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on May 27, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

People still rob banks? You bet they do -- and they get caught. Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma were confronted with a spate of bank robberies they linked to the Hoover Crips, a franchise of the Crips street gang. They also had reason to believe the appellant in this case, Dejuan Hill, was involved.

A federal grand jury indicted Dejuan on 10 counts, including robbery and conspiracy, for a series of bank robberies that occurred between 2009 and 2011.

Hands in the Air!

How did they find him, you ask? The old-fashioned way: With marked bills and a GPS device, cleverly included among the cash that bank tellers handed to the masked robbers as they demanded money at the Arvest Bank in 2011.

Police went to the location suggested by the GPS and saw a man later identified as Dejuan drive by in a black Nissan. Police obtained a search warrant for the house there and found the money, the marked bills, the GPS tracker, and a set of the robbers' clothes.

As it happened, the robbery was a family affair: Dejuan, along with his brothers Vernon and Stanley, were all indicted for the robbery of $87,000 from Arvest Bank. At first, Vernon and Stanley were prosecuted without Dejuan, who sat in the gallery for his brothers' trials. A police officer recognized Dejuan in the courthouse as the person he saw in the black Nissan, prompting the government to indict him, as well. (Moral of the story: If you've just gotten away with a robbery, don't come to court for the fun of it.)

A Little Prejudice? Maybe, But Not a Lot

On appeal, Dejuan raised four issues, two of which are the most interesting. First, he raised a sufficiency of the evidence claim, as the only things linking him to the robbery were the officer's seeing him at the house after the robbery, some security camera footage that could have been of him, and cell phone evidence tying Dejuan leaving the house to a cell phone call the government claimed related to the robbery.

Though this is all circumstantial evidence, the Tenth Circuit had no problem concluding that, together, it was all enough to convict Dejuan, even if no single piece of evidence could have.

Dejuan's second claim relates to a variance between the conspiracy alleged in the indictment and the one proved at trial. On this issue, the Tenth Circuit found ample evidence of a conspiracy to rob the Arvest Bank, but "scant evidence" connecting him to a larger conspiracy; i.e., being a member of the Hoover Crips. For this allegation, the government had little more than a tattoo alleged to be a gang tattoo and the police department's own certification that that he was a member of the Hoover Crips.

Even so, the Tenth Circuit found that the variance didn't prejudice Dejuan, as there was ample evidence presented tying Dejuan to the smaller conspiracy, and there was little risk that the jury would misuse evidence. Judge Carolyn McHugh dissented in part on the issue of this prejudice, however, and would have remanded for a new trial.

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