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

    Joined:
    May 15, 2017
    Messages:
    6,413
    Likes Received:
    1,752
    Trophy Points:
    113
    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
  2. Right is the way

    Right is the way Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    1,845
    Likes Received:
    386
    Trophy Points:
    83
    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.
     
    JakeStarkey likes this.
  3. Capt Nice

    Capt Nice Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2017
    Messages:
    4,838
    Likes Received:
    3,511
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    If you contributed to the crime that resulted in someone's death I will gladly come to your hanging.
     
    JakeStarkey and Right is the way like this.
  4. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

    Joined:
    May 15, 2017
    Messages:
    6,413
    Likes Received:
    1,752
    Trophy Points:
    113
    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 Newly Registered

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2018
    Messages:
    132
    Likes Received:
    16
    Trophy Points:
    18
    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
    Diuretic and kazenatsu like this.
  6. Matt22yuc

    Matt22yuc Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2018
    Messages:
    134
    Likes Received:
    110
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Gender:
    Male
    Yeah it’s called manslaughter.
     
  7. NMNeil

    NMNeil Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2015
    Messages:
    1,879
    Likes Received:
    286
    Trophy Points:
    83
    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 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Messages:
    24,615
    Likes Received:
    2,941
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    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

    Joined:
    May 15, 2017
    Messages:
    6,413
    Likes Received:
    1,752
    Trophy Points:
    113
    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
    Diuretic likes this.
  10. Diuretic

    Diuretic Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2008
    Messages:
    11,368
    Likes Received:
    777
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    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.
     

Share This Page