Having some trouble with felony murder

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beach_terror
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Having some trouble with felony murder

Postby beach_terror » Thu Sep 23, 2010 6:19 pm

For some reason, felony murder is giving me some trouble in crim. We have a mid-term in 2 weeks, and it's the only thing I'm not 100% comfortable with so far.

As I understand it, felony murder is a way for the prosecution to achieve the maximum possible sentence. Policy wise, it serves as a deterrent for people who are going to commit a felony (to do so in non-violent ways, as to avoid being subject to a possible 1st/2nd degree murder charge).

Merger prevents bootstrapping up felonies with an assaultive nature (involuntary manslaughter, for example?). If merger wasn't present, then every murder (which accordingly probably has an assault) would be bootstrapped up, so the existence of lower homicides and assaults would be undermined, which is detrimental to legislative intent. Right?

However, independent felonious purpose (if the jurisdiction adopts this) is basically a way for the prosecution to get around merger if they can identify two felonies (one assaultive, one non-assaultive?) so they can get the defendant on felony murder anyway. Would an example of this be armed robbery in a home? You can separate out the felonies into an assaultive one (the murder from carrying a weapon) with the burglary (intent to commit armed robbery). Since the burglary isn't inherently dangerous in the abstract, you can separate it out and then combine it with the murder for felony murder?

Am I on the right track?

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underdawg
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Re: Having some trouble with felony murder

Postby underdawg » Thu Sep 23, 2010 6:40 pm

i don't remember everything from crim but yeah you are on the right track. the key is that felony murder doesn't make all that much sense when you really think about it. probably one of the most criticized doctrines you'll learn in 1L. so just because some crap doesn't entirely make sense here doesn't mean you're not getting it. i don't remember how independent felonious purpose works tho

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beach_terror
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Re: Having some trouble with felony murder

Postby beach_terror » Thu Sep 23, 2010 9:50 pm

Think I've got the hang of it after fooling around with some hypo situations. Anyone else feel free to chime in.

When I'm analyzing it, I go: mens rea -> statute/jurisdiction specifications -> dangerous felony or dangerous act? -> merger? -> if so, IFP? -> then end with a brief policy discussion of whether it fulfills legislative goals and if it's "fair" to the defendant.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Having some trouble with felony murder

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Sep 23, 2010 9:52 pm

underdawg wrote:i don't remember everything from crim but yeah you are on the right track. the key is that felony murder doesn't make all that much sense when you really think about it. probably one of the most criticized doctrines you'll learn in 1L. so just because some crap doesn't entirely make sense here doesn't mean you're not getting it.

I personally thought felony murder made a great deal of sense and loved it. Then again, I might be special.

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beach_terror
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Re: Having some trouble with felony murder

Postby beach_terror » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:06 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
underdawg wrote:i don't remember everything from crim but yeah you are on the right track. the key is that felony murder doesn't make all that much sense when you really think about it. probably one of the most criticized doctrines you'll learn in 1L. so just because some crap doesn't entirely make sense here doesn't mean you're not getting it.

I personally thought felony murder made a great deal of sense and loved it. Then again, I might be special.


Is my general understanding correct? I think my trouble is that it's a very policy based rule, which is something I haven't encountered yet.

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inchoate_con
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Re: Having some trouble with felony murder

Postby inchoate_con » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:19 pm

Like the other guy said, it's controversial, but you have the general idea correct. Add to your understanding ... How does the rule deter an unintended crime; that is, how do you deter an unintentional act? Basically, it removes the burden of proving intent for the State. Ripe area for an exam.

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beach_terror
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Re: Having some trouble with felony murder

Postby beach_terror » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:22 pm

inchoate_con wrote:Like the other guy said, it's controversial, but you have the general idea correct. Add to your understanding ... How does the rule deter an unintended crime; that is, how do you deter an unintentional act? Basically, it removes the burden of proving intent for the State. Ripe area for an exam.


By doing it in a safe way (not bringing deadly weapons when you're robbing, etc)? Otherwise, you can't and I guess that's why it's so controversial... you can't deter unintentional killings, so its unfair to the defendant and serves no societal purpose. Gives prosecutors even more power by giving them the mens rea as a freebie.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Having some trouble with felony murder

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:33 pm

beach_terror wrote:Is my general understanding correct? I think my trouble is that it's a very policy based rule, which is something I haven't encountered yet.

The thing my professor taught us (and this might make it make more sense, but I'm not sure your professor would appreciate you talking about it this way) was that these limitations were imposed by courts that were skeptical of the felony murder rule and thus were happy to limit it practically out of existence. In a state that follows both the merger rule and the independent felonious intent rule, felony murder is a very difficult charge to bring, and that's by design of a court skeptical of the rule. Courts in other states are more embracing of the rule and thus embrace doctrines that don't constrain it nearly so much.

It sounds like you've got the concept down, the thing that might help you is understanding that while it doesn't make sense on the level you're approaching it, it does on the broader level of considering which state supreme courts like the felony murder rule and which don't and want to kill it as much as possible.

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beach_terror
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Re: Having some trouble with felony murder

Postby beach_terror » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:51 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
beach_terror wrote:Is my general understanding correct? I think my trouble is that it's a very policy based rule, which is something I haven't encountered yet.

The thing my professor taught us (and this might make it make more sense, but I'm not sure your professor would appreciate you talking about it this way) was that these limitations were imposed by courts that were skeptical of the felony murder rule and thus were happy to limit it practically out of existence. In a state that follows both the merger rule and the independent felonious intent rule, felony murder is a very difficult charge to bring, and that's by design of a court skeptical of the rule. Courts in other states are more embracing of the rule and thus embrace doctrines that don't constrain it nearly so much.

It sounds like you've got the concept down, the thing that might help you is understanding that while it doesn't make sense on the level you're approaching it, it does on the broader level of considering which state supreme courts like the felony murder rule and which don't and want to kill it as much as possible.


Excellent, thank you so much! So as courts adopt more of these limitation doctrines, its because they just disagree with it (and thus would prefer the MPC approach probably?) and don't want it to apply as much.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Having some trouble with felony murder

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:58 pm

beach_terror wrote:Excellent, thank you so much! So as courts adopt more of these limitation doctrines, its because they just disagree with it (and thus would prefer the MPC approach probably?) and don't want it to apply as much.

That's the way it was explained to me, and I think that makes sense. State supreme courts that don't like the rule restrict its use by imposing a number of restrictive rules, that don't logically seem to fit together well, but make sense together because they're both restrictive. States that like the rule will allow it to be used more openly. It varies from state to state.




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