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Lane v. Texas

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant and three of his friends decided to rob an elderly man in his home. Defendant was arrested for aggravated robbery of an elderly person. At trial, the three friends testified against Defendant. Under Texas law, a criminal defendant could not be convicted if the only evidence against him was uncorroborated accomplice testimony. The trial court instructed the jury that two of the friends were accomplices to the crime, but refused to instruct the jury that the third friend was also an accomplice, thereby allowing her non-accomplice testimony to corroborate the testimony of the other two. Defendant was convicted. Defendant appealed to the Court of Appeals of Texas, arguing that the trial court erred when it refused to instruct the jury that the third friend was an accomplice.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Under Texas law, an individual is not an accomplice to a crime if he or she does not perform an affirmative act or omission in furtherance of the crime.

    Facts.

    James Lane (Defendant) and three of his friends, Patricia R. (Patricia), Kris Shank (Shank), and Anna Eason (Eason), participated in the robbery of 71-year-old Hillard Doss (Doss) at Doss’s house in Texas. The robbery was Defendant’s idea. Defendant told his friends that Doss was known to carry large amounts of cash, and all three friends agreed to Defendant’s plan to commit the robbery. Defendant drove his friends to Doss’s home. After arriving, Defendant and Patricia stayed in the car, while Shank and Eason left to carry out the robbery. Shank and Eason returned to the car without having robbed Doss, but Defendant encouraged them to go through with the robbery. Shank and Eason went back to Doss’s house, committed the robbery, and fled the scene with Defendant and Patricia. Afterward, Defendant, Shank, and Eason divided up the money they had stolen from Doss. Defendant was arrested for aggravated robbery of an elderly person. Under Texas law, a criminal defendant could not be convicted if the only evidence against him was uncorroborated accomplice testimony.

    Issue.

    Whether an individual is an accomplice to a crime if he or she does not perform an affirmative act or omission in furtherance of the crime.

    Held.

    No. Defendant’s conviction is affirmed. Under Texas law, an individual is not an accomplice to a crime if he or she does not perform an affirmative act or omission in furtherance of the crime.

    Discussion.

    To qualify as an accomplice to a crime, an individual must have committed an affirmative act or omission in furtherance of the crime. An individual who knows about a crime but does not report the crime, or conceals the crime, is also not an accomplice. In this case, Patricia was present from the beginning to the end of the robbery, from the planning of the crime to the perpetration of the crime. Patricia knew what Defendant, Shank, and Eason were doing. However, Patricia’s mere presence during the crime did not make her an accomplice. Patricia did not commit any affirmative acts in furtherance of the crime. Additionally, her failure to report the crime in order to prevent the crime did not make her an accomplice by omission under Texas’s general requirements for finding that an individual is an accomplice to a crime. Therefore, Patricia does not qualify as an accomplice, and the trial court did not err when it refused to instruct the jury on this point.


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