How do you feel about "felony murder" doctrine?

Discussion in 'Law & Justice' started by kazenatsu, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    First a short explanation. So-called felony murder doctrine involves holding a criminal responsible for something they did not actually do, but which wouldn't have ended up happening if they had not committed the crime.

    Typical example:
    Someone breaks into a house, thinking nobody's home. The homeowner hears an intruder breaking into the house and grabs his gun. It's dark and he sees a shadowy figure suddenly moving across the darkness towards him. He shoots, and accidentally kills his wife.
    The intruder is charged with felony murder for the death, even though the death was accidental and committed by the homeowner.

    Another example: Two criminals are in a car speeding away from the police in close pursuit. The police see what appears to be a gun in the hands of the passenger and shoot, killing him. The driver of the car is then charged with felony murder for the death of his accomplice, because he was driving the vehicle fleeing from police and that death wouldn't have happened if he wasn't driving away.

    How do you feel about this legal logic?
    It's actually common in several U.S. states.

    I personally am very much against it, and find it outrageous that the law would hold someone responsible for something they did not actually do (or do directly, to be more precise), nor had any reasonable cause to believe that their actions would cause that outcome. Just because something happens to be illegal, I don't think that automatically justifies holding that person responsible for any indirect consequences their actions may have contributed to.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
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  2. Right is the way

    Right is the way Well-Known Member

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    I have no problem with criminals getting charged for extra crimes for what their actions cause. If someone gets killed while you are engaged in committing a felony I have no problem adding a felony murder to the list of crimes they commit. To not be charged with felony murder all you have to do is not commit a felony, not really that hard of a thing to do.
     
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  3. Capt Nice

    Capt Nice Well-Known Member

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    If you contributed to the crime that resulted in someone's death I will gladly come to your hanging.
     
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  4. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    My view is that the outcome certainly should be a large factor in what the punishment should be, but at the same time it's not right to shift most of the responsibility onto the criminal for something he did not actually do. Certainly the majority of the responsibility has to be placed on the person who actually caused the death.

    It does depend, somewhat, on what the actual crime was, and whether the criminal reasonably should have been expected to foresee that the crime could likely have led to someone getting killed.

    Particularly, when the person who ends up getting killed is the accomplice of a criminal, I don't believe the surviving criminal should end up being held responsible for that death. That person who died chose to engage in a crime and got what was coming to them. If you can lay blame for a death on someone just because they chose to engage in a crime, then certainly you'd have to lay the blame for a criminal dying during the crime on that same criminal, so the blame shouldn't lay on the other criminal. It just seems illogical to blame the death of a criminal on his surviving criminal accomplice when someone else shot him.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018
  5. Puppy

    Puppy Member

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    This is a very thought-provoking thread. In fact, I have wondered about it too and just like you, I also think it's not a very good concept. Criminals should not have to bear full responsibility of any death they have caused in the commission of their "main" crime. Partially, yes, but not fully.

    Take this example: some criminal broke into the house of an old lady. The old lady was so scared that she had a heart attack and died. If we really analyze this situation, we will see that the direct cause for her death was heart attack. Although the criminal did have a part in causing the heart attack. So yes, he can be said to have indirectly caused her death. But since it's not directly, he should not have to be fully responsible for her death. Only partially.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018
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  6. Matt22yuc

    Matt22yuc Active Member

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    Yeah it’s called manslaughter.
     
  7. NMNeil

    NMNeil Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. So if someone is driving a Corvette at high speed and crashes, killing either a passenger or a pedestrian can the CEO of GM be held accountable as his company made and deliberately marketed the Corvette purely on it's capability to break the law?
     
  8. perdidochas

    perdidochas Greeter

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    I agree with it. It makes sense. The only thing about it I find unjust is in the case of partners in crime (the actual killer being one of the criminals), the "along for the ride" criminal is occasionally punished more than the actual murderer. That is if Joe and Frank go into a convenience store. Frank is the lookout, and Joe murders the clerk. I've heard of cases where Joe pleas out/confesses/testifies against Frank, and Frank ends up getting more prison time than Joe. I don't agree with that. I agree with your two circumstances. The criminal's actions caused the death in both cases.
     
  9. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    Another example is that case last year where someone played a prank and called in reporting a hostage situation at someone else's house. When the person inside the home opened the door to go outside, he was shot by one of the police officers, and died.
    Now, obviously you can blame the person who called in the fake call, leading to a potentially dangerous situation, but what about the police officer who actually shot the gun? Surely a big part of the blame has to fall on him too. (whether it falls under the category of accidental or improper misconduct)
    The police had surrounded the house and had not announced themselves yet when the guy inside heard a noise and went outside to see what it was. When he opened the door and stepped outside he was suddenly surprised to see someone in full black body gear pointing a gun at him, who shouted at him to put his hands up.

    Some people would lay 100% of the blame for the shooting on the prank caller.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2018
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  10. Diuretic

    Diuretic Well-Known Member

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    Just sounds wrong to me. If the logic of the criminal law is that there must be mens rea and actus reus for a crime then this seems to be playing with both concepts. There's also the question of proximate and distal cause. This isn't justice, this is revenge.
     
  11. Raffishragabash

    Raffishragabash Newly Registered

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    I think it is totally fair.

    While at the same time, if there is a situation of any Law Enforcement pursuing the criminal and assisting the criminal with endangering the public, then I think all traumas should be applied to the correct parties. In terms of the correct party which made a decision that perfected some increased danger that caused said traumas during the pursuit.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2018
  12. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    Using that type of logic you could blame those who passed some of these laws in the first place.

    You seem to be operating from the assumption that breaking the law is always necessarily a moral violation rather than legal.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
  13. Raffishragabash

    Raffishragabash Newly Registered

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    Yes, I agree, that breaking the law is ALWAYS a moral violation before it is a legal violation. That reality, is never an assumption.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
  14. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    Depends on the law, doesn't it?
    And even when it is a moral violation, it can be a matter of degrees.
    So I still see your argument as flawed (potentially flawed).

    Yes, obviously if the criminal creates a situation where society and the law enforcement have no choice but to take an action which caused an unintended tragedy, your argument may hold some weight, but that's far from always clearly the situation.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
  15. Raffishragabash

    Raffishragabash Newly Registered

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    You might've missed it how my argument/my stance is developed for covering all immoralities, whether its a rogue cop or a criminal citizen.

    If you are always looking for ways to make immoral cops, exculpatory, then you are not going to be cognizant of the validity of my argument here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
  16. btthegreat

    btthegreat Well-Known Member

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    I agree with you. You intend to commit a simple burglary. You do not bring a weapon. A man dies of a heart attack seeing you in his house. I do not believe in charging his natural death as a murder. I do not think there is any intent. While I don't mind civil courts attaching this as a foreseeable risk, to your negligent and liable conduct, I disagree with adding another 20 years or coercing a plea deal.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
  17. modernpaladin

    modernpaladin Well-Known Member

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    I agree with the concept, but it should be up to the jury. Theoretically, you could get charged with murder for jaywalking, and thats not reasonable. Let the jury decide.
     

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