Criminal (Instructions): THACKER V. COMMONWEALTH (SC; 6/15/2006)

CRIMINAL:  Instructions (robbery; essential elements)
DATE:  6/15/2006

To avoid conflict with United States Supreme Court precedent in United States v. Gaudin, 515 U.S. 506 (1995) and Apprendi v. New Jersey,  530 U.S. 466 (2000), SCOKY overruled Hicks v. Commonwealth, 550 S.W.2d 480 (Ky. 1977)( "[i]t should never be necessary in the instructions to define the word `deadly weapon.’ Whether the particular instrument is or is not a deadly weapon should be determined by the court as a matter of law.")

In Apprendi , supra, the United States Supreme Court held simply: "Other than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. at 490 .

In overruling Hicks, SCOKY reiterated that the "judge must be permitted to instruct the jury on the law and to insist that the jury follow his instructions ." Gaudin, supra, at 513 (citing Sparf v. United States, 156 U .S . 51, 15 S.Ct. 273, 39 L .Ed . 343 (1895)). The jury ultimately determines the essential elements of the offense, and acts in accordance with the law. Courts in other jurisdictions have taken a similar approach to instructing their juries on robbery. Michael Stevens, ed.

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