RESOURCES

WHAT IS THE FELONY MURDER RULE (FMR)?

FMR is a legal theory under which a person is charged with first-degree murder if any death (even an accidental one) results from the commission of certain felonies such as arson, robbery, burglary, etc. All participants in the felony can, and most likely will, be held equally liable – even those who did no harm, had no weapon, and had no intent to hurt anyone. FMR eliminates the prosecutor’s burden of proving intent or premeditation to kill – elements which must be proven for first-degree murder – thus making it the easiest murder conviction for a prosecutor to win.

 

HOW DOES FMR DIFFER FROM FIRST-DEGREE MURDER?

First-degree murder is a killing committed with the purpose and specific intent to kill based on willfulness, deliberation, and premeditation. Intent to kill must be proven for conviction of first-degree murder. A Felony Murder Rule conviction requires only the proof of intent to commit the underlying felony.

 

WHY DO WE CARE IF PEOPLE ARE DYING IN PRISON?

Thousands of men and women in California prisons are suffering, hopelessly, sentences of life without the possibility of parole due to this inhumane law. Many of those convicted under FMR were teenagers or very young adults at the time of the commission of the crime and, thus, unable to anticipate the actions of those whom they were with. Many had no history of criminal involvement and were simply with the wrong people at the wrong time. As California law is applied, they would have received a lighter sentence had they gotten a weapon, laid in wait and intentionally killed another. FMR requires proof ONLY of intent to commit the underlying felony, NOT intent to murder.

 

WHERE DID THIS LAW ORIGINATE AND IS IT USED ANYWHERE ELSE?

Felony Murder Rule was conceived in England in 1716 and brought to the United States in the early 1800’s. California enacted FMR in 1872. This law is so unjust that England abolished FMR in 1957, nearly 60 years ago, and four of the fifty United States have abolished it – Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Hawaii. California needs to be #5. The United States of America is the only country in the world to use the Felony Murder Rule.

 

HOW MUCH DOES LIFE INCARCERATION COST CALIFORNIA TAXPAYERS?

In 2015, the number of people serving life sentences in California was 40,362. At the cost of $67,000 to house one prisoner for one year, California taxpayers spend $2.7 billion dollars a year on those serving life sentences alone.

CASE: Brandon Hein - Felony Murder - ​The Agoura Four

Incarcerated Age: 17 Years Old

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Life In Prison: Felony Murder - Arrested In Fistfight, Teen In Prison For Life

60 Minutes - January 29, 2003

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CASE: Ryan Holle - Felony Murder

Incarcerated Age: 20 Years Old

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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.

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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.