Thomas v. Warden – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In Thomas v. Warden, 683 F.2d 83 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1042 (1982), the defendant challenged his multiple bank robbery convictions arising from the taking of money from multiple cash drawers of individual tellers at a bank.

He claimed that it was one criminal episode, and the bank tellers were merely "repositories" with respect to property belonging to a single entity. Therefore, he argued that he committed a "single unitary episode" of bank robbery. 683 F.2d at 84.

Applying Maryland substantive law, the Fourth Circuit was satisfied as to "proof of the separate, discrete possession of each of the three bank tellers from whom money was allegedly taken to support three separate convictions." 683 F.2d at 86.

The court concluded that the "consistent, long-standing interpretation [of the Maryland courts] supports the state's claim that separate units of prosecution, hence multiple punishments, were contemplated by the Maryland legislature in respect of the three armed robbery convictions here in issue." 683 F.2d at 85.

Significantly, the court was persuaded "that the Maryland legislature intended to allow multiple prosecution and sentencing in armed robbery cases involving property owned by a single entity where the property is taken, albeit in a unitary episode, from the lawful possessions of multiple custodians of discrete portions of the property and where each custodian is put under individual armed threat in the course of the taking." Id.