Felony Murder—How It Is Possible to be Convicted of Murder Without Killing Anyone
The statute defining murder is very simple in Indiana. In order to convict someone of murder, the State must prove that:
- The Defendant;
- Another person.
This is by far the most common method in which individuals are charged with the intentional killing of another. It is important to understand, however, that it is possible to be charged with murder even if you are not the person that killed another.
The doctrine of felony murder allows the State to prosecute individuals for murder even if they are not the person that directly caused the death of another. A person convicted of felony murder faces the same penalty range as murder (45-65 years). To convict someone of felony murder, the State must prove that a death occurred while the defendant was committing or attempting to commit one of these felonies:
- Child molest
- Drug Dealing/Manufacturing
The idea behind the felony murder statute is that the above listed felonies are so inherently dangerous on their own that a death could reasonably occur as the crime is taking place. The legislature reasons that these crimes are so dangerous that any death that occurs through the commission of them should have been foreseeable to the defendants. Therefore, if a death occurs during the commission of these felonies, everyone that participated in the underlying felony is responsible for that death.
For example, Person A and Person B agree to go into a store and commit a robbery. Person A shoots and kills the store clerk. Person B only intended to participate in the robbery and never intended for anyone to get hurt. However, under the doctrine of felony murder, Person B is just as guilty as Person A for the store clerk’s death. By agreeing to participate in the robbery with Person A, Person B is on the hook for ANY death that occurred as a result of the robbery.
Let’s take it a step further using the same hypothetical. Person A and Person B agree to go into a store and commit a robbery. This time, however, the store clerk pulls out a gun during the robbery and shoots Person A. Person A dies. What is Person B guilty of? Felony murder. Under the felony murder statute in Indiana, Person B is responsible for the death of Person A because Person B agreed to participate in the robbery and is therefore responsible for ANY death that occurred as a result of the robbery.
The felony murder statute has been under scrutiny for some time, largely because the State can convict someone of murder that lacked the intent to kill. Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court has narrowed the felony murder doctrine in Indiana, stating that in order to prove felony murder, the State must prove the defendant engaged in “dangerously violent and threatening conduct” during the commission of the felony in which the person was killed. This ruling would seem to limit the liability of “fringe” participants in the underlying felony, such as unarmed lookouts and getaway drivers. Understandably, felony murder continues to be a contentious subject of litigation.
It is crucial to have an experienced attorney on your side that knows how to approach and win murder trials. If you or someone you know is facing a felony murder charge, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC. We are available at all times by calling us at (317) 870-0019, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.