Written by attorney James Donald Garrett

Accidental Deaths During Felony Crimes: The Felony Homicide Law

Criminal acts always have the potential to spiral out of control and may have unforeseen consequences that were never part of the plan. Under Virginia’s felony homicide law, if one of those unforeseen acts includes the death of someone—even if it was not intended—the offender of the original crime-gone-wrong can be charged with felony homicide. A person can be charged with felony homicide during the commission of a robbery, burglary, sexual assault, arson, kidnapping, or other felonies excluding first and second degree murder itself. The penalties and consequences associated with a felony homicide charge are very severe, and can lead to decades in prison. Two recent cases from Virginia illustrate the types of situations in which a suspect may face felony homicide charges under Virginia law.

The first case involves a Virginia Beach man and a host of felony charges. According to, 21-year-old Virginia Beach resident Layne Christian Harmon was charged with felony homicide for his involvement during a robbery for the death of Ronald Jamall Green. In addition to the robbery and felony homicide charges, Mr. Harmon faces charges of attempted robbery, second-degree murder, use of a firearm, conspiracy, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The events that set off the robbery and killing of Mr. Green are thought to be related to a Virginia Beach warehouse that may have been used as the spot for an exclusive and private night club.

This month Nelson County authorities believe that a Lovingston, Virginia, woman was responsible for the death of a man caused by fire set to a property. reports that the fatal house fire occurred four years ago, but the woman has recently been linked to two other house fires that occurred in February, 2012, and May of this year. Linda Campbell Blackwell now faces felony homicide charges for the 2009 death of James Shelton Sr. during an arson. Ms. Campbell also faces arson charges and charges of obtaining money by false pretenses. She is being held in the Albermarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

Virginia Criminal Law

Under Virginia Code 18.2-33, a person commits felony homicide when he or she kills another person accidently while committing another felony. Felony homicide under the statute is a second degree murder, and is punishable by a jail term of between five and forty years. A felony homicide conviction has extremely harsh consequences even after a person is released from jail. A murder conviction on a person’s permanent criminal record can make job searching, relocating, traveling, and relationships very difficult and cumbersome due to various laws and regulations.

There is a high risk for felony homicide charges when anyone commits a felony, because there is always the potential that someone could get killed when other dangerous or violent acts are committed. If you have been charged with violating Virginia’s criminal laws, you should immediately seek out the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you understand the charges against you and can defend your case in court.

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