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I need a present or former prosecutor for this question. Pertaining to felony murder:

Snow Hill, NC |

Our constitution insists on fairness and justice in our legal system. Why is it that in every crime proof beyond a reasonable doubt is needed for a conviction, yet the felony murder rule can convict on nothing more than mere speculation? No proof is required. Is this not going against our rights? What earthy good is the felony murder rule? England herself has abolished is years ago, because it was unfair and cruel. I understand the rule quite well but please explain to me how this doctrine serves a purpose, certainly now deterrence as it was originally intended. As prosecutor, how can you convict an innocent person without proof of anything? A lifetime is a very long time for being in the wrong place at the wrong time....thank you in advance

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

I'm slightly insulted that you aimed your question at prosecutors. It's the law of the land. As a Constitutional Law defender, I can tell you that nobody should lose their life because of the decision of another to break the law. As you said, a lifetime is a very long time [for someone to give up their life] behind another's illegal actions. For example, if the bank robber hadn't robbed the bank the ***innocent*** bystander would not have been run over, shot, or killed (even if by mistake). In my job, I have to insure my client's rights are met with respect, and that if available to present enough "reasonable doubt" to show that the prosecution has not met its burden.

The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

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Posted

I am sorry that you were insulted by my comment. However, I was aiming my question toward prosecutors because I wanted to hear the answers from a prosecutors point of view not so much from a defenders since the subject is approached from two different points of view, at least from a stand point of the family members of those being convicted. You see, we look at it this way, the prosecutors is the bad guy, he is trying to lock your loved one up and the defense attorney is the good guy who is trying to keep your loved one from being locked up. And when you know for a fact that your loved one is innocent of the crime they are being accused of the scales can tip either way. I realize, as an attorney you are more than capable of answering my question, but I have heard the views of defense attorneys now I would like to hear from the bad guy. In my husbands case robbery could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Even the manager of the store testified that she could no say how much IF ANY money was taken...My husband was not directly involved with this crime yet he was convicted on very weak evidence at best. Quote " nothing more than mere speculation" (..words from an appellant attorney ) my husband didn't shoot anyone nor did he rob anyone...His brother accidently killed someone but there was no robbery. So, my question is this.. where is the proof beyond a reasonable doubt.? No robbery, no first degree murder. They convicted my husband on the word of one person and one person alone, one that could not say how much money was taken much less that any was taken at all. Where is the proof beyond a reasonable doubt here? Thank you for you reply...feel better now?

Posted

Lets look at this issue another way. To be convicted of first degree murder, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you either committed the murder in a willful, deliberate, premeditated manner (the statute of course names other scenarios: by WMD, poison, torture, etc.; but the basic premise is premeditation) OR during the commission of a violent felony (i.e. arson, rape or a sex offense, robbery, kidnapping, burglary). If its proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed one of the enumerated felonies and it's proven beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was killed during the commission of that felony, you are then guilty of first degree murder by way of the "felony-murder" (rather than the "premeditated") component of the statute. It's hard to read that as someone being convicted on nothing more than mere speculation or that no proof is required. Just my thoughts, hope this helps.

The above is not intended as legal advice. The response does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship.

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Posted

Sir, thank you for your response, I know very well a case that involved 2 brothers. together at a food mart. it was closing time and just for fun brother #1 was inside joking and flirting with the clerk. He made a remark that really upset her and as he walked away and out to his car, she exited the store, ran after him and jumped on his back. he had a gun in the waist of his pants and as he was shanking her off the gun fell out, landed on the ground, they both reached for it at the same time and it went off , shooting and killing the clerk. My husband who was sick, was waiting in the car and had no idea what was happening.. My husband was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life. Later his brother was caught, pled guilty to second degree murder, was sentenced to 15 years and was out in 4. my husband remains in prison today after 26 years for a crime he did not commit. There were no witnesses, no finger prints and the manager of the store testified that she wasn't sure how much money IF ANY was taken. The fact is there was no robbery. there was no money bag found and my brother in law didn't have any money afterward. So where is the proof beyond a reasonable doubt here? I liked your answer and I liked the way you so eloquently put it. you sound like an attorney with a heart, Please don't ever allow it to harden.

Posted

England (and Wales) did abolish the doctrine of felony murder, but do have a broader definition of murder than we have in the States.

Most states in the US do have felony murder. The doctrine requires that the actor be engaged in a felony and that a death occur during that felony.

The purpose is to discourage the commission of felonies. However, conviction for the felony is probably enough of a disincentive.

You still need to prove the commission of the felony beyond a reasonable doubt. I would suggest to you that the convicted person is not an innocent naif.

Of course, what's lacking from felony murder is the need to prove intent to kill beyond a reasonable doubt. But then again we don't insist that people driving under the influence have the specific intent to get into accidents; they're responsible for the accidents they occur. As a society, we have decided that certain consequences of our activities are foreseeable and that those who undertake those activities must be responsible for those foreseeable consequences.

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Posted

The convicted person is in fact an innocent naïf. The convicted person is my husband, I know his case very well. The felony murder rule originated to me a deterrent but how can a law be a deterrent when so few even know it exist ? Unless there is a need to know, the felony murder rule is , well, unknown. must less understood...Thank you for your reply.

Posted

UK didn't get rid of the charge, they changed the name; additionally they apply a looser standard of what constitutes murder.

For felony murder in US the underlying felony requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt; the death requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt;no speculation is allowed or involved.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. FOR EDUCATION AND INFORMATION ONLY. DO NOT RELY ON ANY ADVICE YOU RECEIVE FROM ME OR ANY OTHER ATTORNEY IN THIS FORUM. Legal advice comes after a complete review of the facts and relevant documents and an expressed (written) agreement of representation that forms attorney-client confidentiality. Neither of these two events can occur in this forum. Mr. Rafter is licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the US Federal Courts in Virginia. His answers to any Avvo question are rooted in general legal principles--NOT your specific state laws. There is no implied or actual attorney-client relationship arising from this education exchange. You should speak with an attorney licensed in your state, to whom you have provided all the facts before you take steps that may impact your legal rights. Mr. Rafter is under no obligation to answer subsequent emails or phone calls related to this or any other matter.

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With all due respect sir. I know of a case where the underlying felony was robbery, in this case robbery was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt., as a matter of fact there were no finger prints, no money bag found and the manager of the food mart testified in court that she was not sure of the amount if any that was taken. The murder took place outside of the store after the clerk came out after my brother in law as he was walking away from her. He had a gun in his pants and it feel when the clerk jumped on his back, they both reached for it at the same time and it accidently went off shooting the clerk and killing her. ..The fact is there was no robbery but because my husband was waiting in the car for his brother, not knowing what was going on and he was convicted of first degree murder. Later they found his brother and he pled no contest to second degree murder and received 15 years and was out in 4. My husband is still in prison today 26 years later for something he did not do, had no part of and had no pre knowledge of...so yes sir , they do convict on mere speculation.. and by the way there were no witnesses and they could not positively ID the gun as being the murder weapon..

Posted

I read your comments, unfortunately your story didn't seem to be an indictment of the felony murder rule, but more so potential problems that happened with your case. The felony murder rule works in that the underlying crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no set rule or diagram as to what must be proven to meet this standard. You stated that there was only one witness and that witness was not credible...unfortunately it seems the jury found this person credible...they are the ultimate judge as to what evidence meets the standard.

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Posted

Sir, thank you for your reply, however, I did not say there was only one witness. The fact is there were no witnesses. The prosecutor saw he could not prove anything so in the closing argument , he introduced the felony murder rule to the jury. As laymen of the law, the jury could not get a clear understanding of the FMR in just a few minutes of instruction. The prosecutors explanation was correct of course but I don't think the jury clearly understood the full impact of using this doctrine. My personal feelings toward this case as well as others convicted using this rule is that the jury simply don't understand the felony murder rule and it's consequences the way they should to make a fair judgment. I truly feel this rule gives the prosecutors too much power and they use this power to their advantage. The question in this case is, robbery was never proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That's because there was no robbery. if there was no robbery, there was no felony murder and an innocent man has spent 26 years in prison for something he did not do. The fact that the robbery could not be proven was over looked by the jury and when the FMR was introduced , that's what stayed in their minds. Jury member are lay people who do not know the law. I am sure the fact that the robbery was not proven went without the jury even knowing it's importance. I thank you for your reply.

Kenneth Love Jr.

Kenneth Love Jr.

Posted

I understand your concern, but without Robbery the Felony Murder rule can't stand alone. The issue is Robbery was proven beyond a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury, whether anyone else would agree or not. Felony murder must be charged at the beginning of the case, not at the end. Some of your concerns may really be focused on the representation he received not the felony murder rule.

Asker

Posted

Mr. Love, would you be willing to give me a free consultation to discuss my husbands case? I am desperate to be heard. His transcripts are in the hands of the law school there in Winston Salem but I can go there and pick them up if you would agree to see me.. Someone needs to take this case as seriously as I do. My husband should not be in prison. There is soooo much about this case that is down right wrong. Any attorney that can prove my husband was unjustly convicted would stand to gain a lot . I have been told this case is very complicated and most attorneys shy from it. I realize it would take a very strong. determined, willful attorney, are there any like that left out there? This case generated a lot of publicity and his release would generate even more, I will see to that...Please notify me of your decision. thank you in advance..

Kenneth Love Jr.

Kenneth Love Jr.

Posted

Unfortunately, I do not practice criminal law and will not be of much help. Further, I am not sure an attorney can do much to help at this point. Your fight must be with the legislature and your stance on the law. At this point, Felony Murder is the law as Mr. Harris stated. You have to get the law changed or review to be of much help to your husband.

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