Change Felony Murder Rule

Felony Murder Rule may be unconstitutional. In some cases it violates the Eighth Amendment. It holds unequally involved parties equally accountable and punishable. Again, cruel and unusual punishment if the punishments do not fit each individual's part in the crime
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE FELONY MURDER RULE.
Preface/Definitions (criteria vary from state to state)
1. First-Degree Murder - A premeditated (planned) killing accompanied by the intent to kill, malice aforethought (planning to kill a particular victim or anyone who might try to prevent such a killing).
2. Second-degree Murder - A non-premeditated killing resulting from an assault in which death is probable or highly likely.
3. Voluntary Manslaughter - Killing in the heat of passion or while committing a felony.
4. Involuntary Manslaughter - Death which occurs accidentally or in violation of a non-felony, such as reckless driving.
5. Homicide - The killing of a human being due to the act or omission of another. Murder and manslaughter are included among homicides, but not all homicides are a crime, particularly when there is a lack of criminal intent. Non-criminal homicides include killing in self-defense, accidents, such as a hunting accident, or a traffic accident where there is no violation of the law, such as reckless driving. Intent is the criterion that could elevate a charge from homicide (innocent or criminal), to murder.
6. Felony Murder Rule - States that any death which occurs during the commission or attempt to commit certain felonies, which include arson, rape or other sexual offenses, burglary, robbery or kidnapping, is first-degree murder and all participants in the felony can be held equally culpable, including those who did no harm, possessed no weapon, and did not intend to hurt anyone. Intent does not have to be proven for anything but the underlying felony. Even if, during the commission of the underlying felony, death occurs from fright, a heart attack for instance--it is still first-degree murder.
Reasons Why the Felony Murder Rule is Wrong:
1. The felony murder rule does not take into consideration the suspect's motivation during the crime, thus relieving the prosecution of its burden of proving intent to kill, which is a necessary element of murder in all other murder cases.

A. Intent to commit felony does not equal intent to kill. The intention of committing a felony, by itself, should not be sufficient to establish a charge of murder.

B. The felony murder rule erodes the relationship between criminal liability and moral culpability. It equally punishes all homicides which take place during the commission, or attempted commission, of the proscribed felonies, whether intentional, unintentional, or accidental.

C. Under the felony murder rule, the defendant's state of mind is irrelevant. The prosecution bears no burden of proof of intent in felony murder cases. Because intent can mean the difference between cold-blooded killing and accidental death, felony murder bears little resemblance to the offense of murder except in name. First-degree murder is an arbitrary assignment.


2. Holding one or many criminally liable for the tragic results of an act, which differs greatly from the intended results, is based on a concept of culpability which is totally at odds with the general principles of jurisprudence. It is fundamentally unfair and in violation of basic principles of individual criminal culpability to hold one felon liable for the unforeseen and unagreed-to results of another felon's action.


3. The basic rule of culpability is further violated when felony murder is categorized as first-degree murder.

A. All other first-degree murder charges (which carry equal punishment) require proof beyond reasonable doubt of premeditation, deliberation and willfulness. Felony murder requires only proof of intent to commit the underlying felony.

B. The purpose of creating degrees of murder is to punish with increased severity the more culpable forms of murder. However, an accidental death during the commission or attempted commission of a felony is punished more severely than a second-degree murder, which requires proof of intent to kill.

C. The felony murder rule bears no clear relationship or equity in its two penalties with the penalties of other North Carolina murder laws. Other murder convictions, including first-degree murder, often carry lighter sentences than felony murder.


4. While the felony murder rule survives in North Carolina and other states, many states have repealed it. Many more have made numerous modifications and restrictions on the rule. The simple fact that states' courts and legislatures throughout the United States have repealed or amended the law reflects a wide dissatisfaction with the basic harshness and injustice of the doctrine, and calls into question its continued existence.


5. The felony murder rule can be used by prosecutors as a shortcut to justice.

A. The law relieves prosecutors of the burden of proving intent to kill, thereby making their cases much easier to win.

B. Because there are only two options for sentencing (life without parole and death), the law can cause grossly disproportionate sentencing, depending on the circumstances of each individual case. This wins prosecutors greater convictions when the sentences may not be at all appropriate.


6. The felony murder rule may be unconstitutional.

A. It does not necessarily presume innocence.

B. In some cases it violates the Eighth Amendment: cruel and unusual punishment, grossly disproportionate to the crime(s) actually committed.

C. It holds unequally involved parties equally accountable and punishable. Again, cruel and unusual punishment if the punishments do not fit each individual's part in the crime.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE FELONY MURDER RULE.
Preface/Definitions (criteria vary from state to state)
1. First-Degree Murder - A premeditated (planned) killing accompanied by the intent to kill, malice aforethought (planning to kill a particular victim or anyone who might try to prevent such a killing).
2. Second-degree Murder - A non-premeditated killing resulting from an assault in which death is probable or highly likely.
3. Voluntary Manslaughter - Killing in the heat of passion or while committing a felony.
4. Involuntary Manslaughter - Death which occurs accidentally or in violation of a non-felony, such as reckless driving.
5. Homicide - The killing of a human being due to the act or omission of another. Murder and manslaughter are included among homicides, but not all homicides are a crime, particularly when there is a lack of criminal intent. Non-criminal homicides include killing in self-defense, accidents, such as a hunting accident, or a traffic accident where there is no violation of the law, such as reckless driving. Intent is the criterion that could elevate a charge from homicide (innocent or criminal), to murder.
6. Felony Murder Rule - States that any death which occurs during the commission or attempt to commit certain felonies, which include arson, rape or other sexual offenses, burglary, robbery or kidnapping, is first-degree murder and all participants in the felony can be held equally culpable, including those who did no harm, possessed no weapon, and did not intend to hurt anyone. Intent does not have to be proven for anything but the underlying felony. Even if, during the commission of the underlying felony, death occurs from fright, a heart attack for instance--it is still first-degree murder.
Reasons Why the Felony Murder Rule is Wrong:
1. The felony murder rule does not take into consideration the suspect's motivation during the crime, thus relieving the prosecution of its burden of proving intent to kill, which is a necessary element of murder in all other murder cases.

A. Intent to commit felony does not equal intent to kill. The intention of committing a felony, by itself, should not be sufficient to establish a charge of murder.

B. The felony murder rule erodes the relationship between criminal liability and moral culpability. It equally punishes all homicides which take place during the commission, or attempted commission, of the proscribed felonies, whether intentional, unintentional, or accidental.

C. Under the felony murder rule, the defendant's state of mind is irrelevant. The prosecution bears no burden of proof of intent in felony murder cases. Because intent can mean the difference between cold-blooded killing and accidental death, felony murder bears little resemblance to the offense of murder except in name. First-degree murder is an arbitrary assignment.


2. Holding one or many criminally liable for the tragic results of an act, which differs greatly from the intended results, is based on a concept of culpability which is totally at odds with the general principles of jurisprudence. It is fundamentally unfair and in violation of basic principles of individual criminal culpability to hold one felon liable for the unforeseen and unagreed-to results of another felon's action.


3. The basic rule of culpability is further violated when felony murder is categorized as first-degree murder.

A. All other first-degree murder charges (which carry equal punishment) require proof beyond reasonable doubt of premeditation, deliberation and willfulness. Felony murder requires only proof of intent to commit the underlying felony.

B. The purpose of creating degrees of murder is to punish with increased severity the more culpable forms of murder. However, an accidental death during the commission or attempted commission of a felony is punished more severely than a second-degree murder, which requires proof of intent to kill.

C. The felony murder rule bears no clear relationship or equity in its two penalties with the penalties of other North Carolina murder laws. Other murder convictions, including first-degree murder, often carry lighter sentences than felony murder.


4. While the felony murder rule survives in North Carolina and other states, many states have repealed it. Many more have made numerous modifications and restrictions on the rule. The simple fact that states' courts and legislatures throughout the United States have repealed or amended the law reflects a wide dissatisfaction with the basic harshness and injustice of the doctrine, and calls into question its continued existence.


5. The felony murder rule can be used by prosecutors as a shortcut to justice.

A. The law relieves prosecutors of the burden of proving intent to kill, thereby making their cases much easier to win.

B. Because there are only two options for sentencing (life without parole and death), the law can cause grossly disproportionate sentencing, depending on the circumstances of each individual case. This wins prosecutors greater convictions when the sentences may not be at all appropriate.


6. The felony murder rule may be unconstitutional.

A. It does not necessarily presume innocence.

B. In some cases it violates the Eighth Amendment: cruel and unusual punishment, grossly disproportionate to the crime(s) actually committed.

C. It holds unequally involved parties equally accountable and punishable. Again, cruel and unusual punishment if the punishments do not fit each individual's part in the crime.
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