Charged With Murder Without Killing Anyone
The paradox of “felony murder” laws.
In 2012, four teenagers and their 21-year-old friend decided to burgle a house in their hometown of Elkhart County, Ind. No one in the group had any weapons, and they picked a house they thought was unoccupied. The homeowner was actually asleep upstairs — and armed. When the five kicked down the back door, Rodney Scott came downstairs and fired his gun, killing 21-year-old Danzele Johnson and hitting another in the leg.
The surviving members of the group, who came to be known as the “Elkhart Four,” were soon facing up to 55 years in prison for a murder they didn’t plan, intend, or commit. The sentences were the result of a complicated and controversial statute called “felony murder.” Most states have some version of a “felony murder” law in their criminal code. Such statutes allow for defendants to be convicted of murder — and in some cases face execution — if a death occurs because of a felony they commit, even if they were not the direct killer.
The Indiana Supreme Court overturned the murder convictions for three of the Elkhart Four last week, finding that “there was simply nothing about the appellant’s’ conduct or the conduct of their cohorts that was clearly the mediate or immediate cause of their friend’s death.” (The fourth had plead guilty to the crime, and has filed his own petition.) …
The surviving members of the group, who came to be known as the “Elkhart Four,” were soon facing up to 55 years in prison for a murder they didn’t plan, intend, or commit. …read more: https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/09/24/a-person-can-be-charged-with-murder-even-if-they-haven-t-killed-anyone?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_source=opening-statement&utm_term=newsletter-20150924-280