Joe Hunt explains why he should have been acquitted of robbery using the “Claim of Right” legal doctrine, which exempts people who are reclaiming what is rightfully theirs. Collecting on a legitimate debt is not a robbery at all, because you lack something called the animus furandi of robbery, which is the intent to take property belonging to another.
It feels pretty technical but it affected me and it had really harsh repercussions on my life.
I was charged and convicted of a robbery, and one of theories is that I came in and I had extorted a check for 1.5 million dollars from Levin.
Now unfortunately, my attorneys, at that trial in 1987, their legal education did not extent to something called the Claim of Right Doctrine, which was common law defense to allegations of robbery in California and throughout the United States. That you are taking back from somebody your own personal property or collecting on a legitimate debt is not a robbery at all because you lack something called the animus furandi of robbery, which is the intent to take property belonging to another.
So lacking that mental state, you can’t be convicted of robbery because that is now is a stated element of robbery in law. So for example, you know back in the 1800s if somebody took your horse, if you pursued them and shot them, you might be guilty of manslaughter or murder, but you wouldn’t be guilty of robbery, because it’s your horse.
Now under the state’s theory, Levin owes me 4 million dollars and that is something that he acknowledged publicly and to prosecution witnesses. The state’s theory was that I was seeking to force him to pay me what he owed me from a legitimate business transaction, that being the case, the jury should have been instructed on the Claim of Right defense.
And had they been instructed, given the fact that the prosecution theory was as described, I would have been acquitted of robbery. Unfortunately, when this issue was raised, it was considered too late to have anything done about it, due to certain legal procedural rules.