Benjamin B. Brockie was accused by police of being responsible for a string of fast-food restaurant robberies in 2001 and 2002 before he switched to robbing banks. He was convicted of two robberies and 15 kidnapping charges for forcing employees of the Inland Northwest Bank to crawl into a vault during the robbery, and sentenced to 67 years in prison.
He challenged a judge’s instruction that said he could be convicted of robbery if he was armed with a deadly weapon or displayed what appears to be a firearm. The formal documents charging him with the robbery said only that he was displaying what appeared to be a firearm.
That difference could be important in some cases, Justice Susan Owens wrote for the unanimous court, because there is a distinction in the law between the two descriptions. But in Brockie’s case it didn’t matter, because he denied he committed the robberies and never argued he wasn’t armed with a deadly weapon. He didn’t prove the jury was prejudiced by the instruction, Owens said.