Not for the first time, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. showed his apparent affinity with detective fiction writers this morning. Last October, in Pennsylvania v. Dunlap, he wrote several paragraphs in the style of genre detective fiction. This time around, in Dean v. United States, he adopted the tone of a narrator in a crime TV show, c. 1960, when announcing the decision from the bench.
“This is the case of the bumbling bank robber,” was his introduction to the story of Christopher Dean. The convicted felon claimed his sentence for attempting to rob a bank should be reduced because, yes, he did discharge his gun, but, your honor, he didn’t mean to.
Not surprisingly, the court wasn’t too sympathetic, ruling 7-2 against Dean. Roberts, with tongue in cheek, had some advice for other wannabe bank robbers:
Those criminals wishing to avoid the penalty for an inadvertant discharge can lock or unload the firearm, handle it with care during the underlying violence or drug trafficking crime, leave the gun at home, or – best yet – avoid committing the felony in the first place.