Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, December 30, 2016


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Man Can’t Be Punished Both for Robbery, Carjacking—Supreme Court


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The California Supreme Court yesterday held that sentencing a defendant for both robbery and carjacking violated the statutory double jeopardy statute.

The high court’s recitation of the facts differs, however, from that appearing in the Court of Appeal’s opinion in the case.

Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar said:

“The defendant in this case was convicted of both carjacking and robbery based on the same forceful taking of a vehicle. What we must decide is whether the forceful taking of this vehicle––the same taking that, according to the prosecution, accomplished the crimes of both robbery and carjacking––constitutes a single physical act subject to the prohibition on multiple punishment under section 654. Since the same action completed the actus reus for each of these two crimes, we hold that section 654 forbids punishment under both provisions.”

Penal Code §654 provides:

“An act or omission that is punishable in different ways by different provisions of law shall be punished under the provision that provides for the longest potential term of imprisonment, but in no case shall the act or omission be punished under more than one provision.”

Cuéllar’s Reasoning

The defendant, Tory J. Corpening Jr., was a conspirator in an attempt to steal coins, worth about $70,000, that were in a van. Cuéllar wrote:

“Whether a defendant will be found to have committed a single physical act for purposes of section 654 depends on whether some action the defendant is charged with having taken separately completes the actus reus for each of the relevant criminal offenses….On these facts, the forceful taking of a vehicle on a particular occasion is a single physical act under section 654. The forceful taking of [victim Walter] Schmidt’s van, and the rare coins contained therein, completed the actus reus for robbery—the felonious taking of another’s personal property by force. Precisely the same action, not a separate but related one taken at a separate time or in a distinct fashion, was also the basis for the contention that the defendant completed the actus reus for carjacking—the felonious taking of another’s motor vehicle by force. It was the same show of force—committed at the same time, by the same person—that yielded for Corpening and his coconspirators the rare coins contained within the carjacked van, giving rise to the robbery conviction. Neither offense was accomplished until completion of the single forceful taking identified by the prosecution as the basis for conviction under the carjacking and robbery statutes. These circumstances render it all but impossible to accept the contrary contention that the forceful taking in this case constitutes multiple physical acts for purposes of section 654.”

Huffman’s Opinion

A contrary contention was expressed by the Court of Appeal in 2014. Justice Richard D. Huffman of the Fourth District, said that San Diego Superior Court Judge Frances M. Devaney did not err in finding that the intent to rob and the intent to steal a vehicle were discrete.

As Huffman recited the facts:

“These crimes arose from a plot to steal valuable coins from the victim when he left in the early morning for the swap meet. Clearly the objective was to steal the coins and escape. The robbers had two vehicles available to them in order to carry out their scheme. However, their scheme was complicated by the victim’s resistance. Ultimately they pushed the victim out of the way and fled in his van. The robbers then abandoned the van a short distance away after taking the coins from the van.”

The appeals court jurist wrote:

“Corpening and his cohorts were there to steal the coins, not the van.”

Huffman said:

“There is sufficient evidence in this record from which the court could have concluded there were two intents, close in time. The intent to steal the coins is clear. The court could easily infer the intent to take the van arose as a separate goal of escaping from the crime scene….Accordingly, we find the trial court’s implied finding of separate intents or purposes to be supported by substantial evidence. Thus we find no error in imposing the consecutive sentence for robbery.”

Cuéllar’s opinion came in People v. Corpening, 2016 S.O.S. 6637.Metropolitan News-Enterprise


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