One moment in time, one unwise decision unalterably condemned my only child to life in hell. The twenty years Anthony had spent as an outgoing, compassionate, trusting kid held no sway in the judgment meted out under the Felony Murder Rule. Christian mission trips, military service at a time of certain deployment to war in Iraq, tennis coaches, bosses, military officers, friends, and family attesting to his positive and easy-going character had no influence in his sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole; otherwise known as death by incarceration.
On a Sunday afternoon after a day of drinking and watching football at a fellow Marines apartment, Anthony went with his cousin and another, who had sustained a severe brain injury in a tank explosion, to retrieve Anthony’s laptop computer. He had sold it to an acquaintance of his cousin who had not yet paid for it and was not returning their telephone calls. After entering the apartment where the acquaintance was staying and asking for the computer back, the injured Marine became angry and frustrated that “he was not following a direct order”, pulled a gun out of his waistband and then shot and killed him.
One individual’s horrendous decision claimed the life of another that day and altered forever the lives of his family. But the carnage doesn’t stop there. Anthony and the two others were charged with, and convicted of, felony murder. Each was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Four young men lost their lives that day and the lives of four families were irreversibly changed.
Anthony, unfortunately, is only one of thousands of men, women and juveniles who have been convicted under this archaic law and will spend the rest of their lives waiting to die in prison. The felony murder rule states that any death which occurs during the commission or attempt to commit certain felonies is first-degree murder. All participants in the felony can, and most likely will, be held equally culpable even those who did no harm, had no weapon, and did not intend to hurt anyone. Intent does not have to be proven for anything but the underlying felony making it the easiest murder conviction to win. Even if, during the commission of the underlying felony, death occurs from fright – a heart attack, for instance, it is still first-degree murder. There are only two penalties possible if found guilty: the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole (the other death penalty).
So many situations we, or our children, find ourselves in have the potential of becoming a casualty of this horrendous law: a backyard fistfight that accidentally turns deadly over marijuana; a convenience store stop with friends where a cashier dies trying to prevent a theft; a college kid unknowingly loans his car to his roommate who uses it for a drug buy where a person is unintentionally killed. ALL receive life without the possibility of parole under the felony murder rule. No intent to kill, no malice aforethought, one random, unwise decision.
We are the Felony Murder Elimination Project and our goal is the elimination of the felony murder rule from California law. We strive to bring an end to the felony murder rule and relief to those who are serving harsh and manifestly disproportionate sentences by its use.
We are the Felony Murder Elimination Project, a growing group of concerned citizens whose goal is the elimination of the Felony Murder Rule from California law.
We are the Felony Murder Elimination Project, a growing group of concerned citizens whose goal is the elimination of the Felony Murder Rule from California law. We strive not only to bring an end to the Felony Murder Rule but to bring relief to those who are serving harsh and manifestly disproportionate sentences by its application. It is our belief that everyone should be held accountable for their actions, but only in proportion to their participation in the crime they commit.