Can a dead person still be considered a person under a criminal statute? This unspoken question is at the center of State v. Montoya, illustrating how a facially simple and uncontroversial case can actually be very misleading. On appeal in Montoya, the defendant argued that the conviction of robbery was unfounded, since the victim was already deceased at the time of theft. The Court of Appeals gave little attention to the argument about the victim’s personhood, instead analyzing the case through the lens of a rational link standard, essentially measuring the connection between a homicide and a subsequent robbery in determining whether those acts were sufficiently entwined and causally-related. This standard allowed the Court to circumvent a literal application of the State’s robbery statute, which requires the use of force sufficient to remove property from the immediate control of another person.

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