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27 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 499 (1993)
Criminal Law - Taking and Force: A Time Dependent Relationship in Establishing Robbery

handle is hein.journals/sufflr27 and id is 519 raw text is: ANNUAL SURVEY OF RHODE ISLAND LAW

Criminal Law-Taking and Force: A Time Dependent Relationship in
Establishing Robbery--State v. Holley, 604 A.2d 772 (R.I. 1992)
The common-law definition of robbery adopted in Rhode Island re-
quires a forcible taking of goods or money accomplished by violence or
induced fear.' In State v. Holley,2 the Supreme Court of Rhode Island
considered whether the taking of property must be the objective of force
to establish robbery.3 The court held that a robbery conviction is not
sustainable when the force occurs after a completed and peaceable
On February 6, 1987, Julio Holley (Holley) and Zachary Spratt
(Spratt) entered a neighborhood grocery store in Providence, Rhode Is-
land, and engaged the proprietor in packaging various meat products.5
After the proprietor saw Spratt slip two cans of tuna fish into his pocket,
he demanded that Spratt return the items and leave the store.6 In re-
sponse, Holley beat the proprietor while Spratt attempted unsuccessfully
to break open the cash register.' The two men ran from the store with
only the two cans of tuna fish.8
The Superior Court of Rhode Island found Holley guilty of robbery
and conspiracy to commit robbery.9 On appeal, Holley sought to over-
1. See State v. Pope, 414 A.2d 781, 788 (R.I. 1980) (robbery exists where taking of money
or goods accomplished by violence or intimidation); State v. Reposa, 99 R.I. 147, 149, 206
A.2d 213, 215 (1965) (robbery established where defendant assaulted companion and stole
money); State v. Boswell, 73 R.I. 358, 364, 56 A.2d 196, 199 (1947) (robbery exists where
taking achieved through repeated assaults on victim). The Rhode Island robbery statute pro-
vides in pertinent part:
Every person who shall commit robbery by use of a dangerous weapon or robbery
where a victim is injured or robbery where the victim is handicapped or elderly shall be
guilty of first degree robbery .... Every person who shall commit robbery or other
larceny from the person by force or threat where there is no weapon and no injury and
the victim is neither handicapped or elderly shall be guilty of second degree robbery
See R.I. GEN. LAWS § 11-39-1 & n.1 (1986) (incorporating common-law definition in statute).
2. 604 A.2d 772 (R.I. 1992).
3. Id. at 775.
4. See id. (finding no robbery since beating followed taking).
5. Id. at 773. Spratt ordered a list of items from the store owner, Melkon Varadian, while
Holley stood in a nearby aisle. Id.
6. Id. Spratt accomplished the taking when he wandered from the meat counter while
Varadian prepared his order. Id.
7. 604 A.2d at 773. Spratt signaled to Holley, who then threw Varadian to the ground
and beat him across the face with his gun. Id.
8. Id. Varadian broke free from Holley and telephoned the police while Spratt and Hol-
ley ran from the store. Id. Varadian later identified both Spratt and Holley to the police. Id.
at 773-74.
9. Id. at 773. The court sentenced Holley to 45 years in prison. Id. at 773-74. The court
sentenced Spratt to a 25-year prison term following his plea of nolo contendere to robbery and
conspiracy to commit robbery. Id. at 773 n. 1.


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