Recently, a friend sought my comments on a murder case in Indiana. The case concerned the felony murder law. In that case, several juveniles decided to burglarize a house. Unbeknownst to them, the homeowner was home. When he heard the burglars, he retrieved his gun and shot one of them, killing him. Prosecutors charged the other burglars with felony murder. The jury convicted and sentenced the teens to 55 years.
Felony Murder Defined
Many people consider the felony murder law unfair. So, let’s make sure we understand the meaning of the felony murder law.
In most states, a person can be charged with felony murder if he commits or attempts to commit a felony and during the commission or attempted commission of that felony, or escape from the commission or attempted commission, another person is killed. It does not matter whether the person intended for anyone to die or whether he killed the person. Prosecutors can still charge him with murder since it occurred during the commission or attempted commission of a felony. Below is Texas felony murder statute:
A person commits an offense (murder) if he commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual. Texas Penal Code 19.02(b)(3)
Is Felony Murder Unfair
Under Texas law, a felony murder is a first-degree felony that can result in a life sentence. The question again is whether felony murder is unfair. Should a person be charged with murder when his only intent was to commit a felony?
Nearly all state legislatures think so because the death occurred from the felonious actions of the defendant. Consequently, a person convicted of felony murder can receive as harsh of a penalty as if he premeditated the murder.
The facts and circumstances of each case are different; hence, I will not offer an opinion on the fairness of the felony murder law. Nevertheless, it is obvious that a person should think long and hard before deciding to commit a felony because the end-result for him and the victim(s) could be a lot worse than he intended.