Justifiable Homicides Counted as Murder Under Felony Murder Rule

Justifiable Homicides Counted as Murder Under Felony Murder Rule

Dean Weingarten

Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- The Felony Murder Rule is a law where a person who is involved in a felony can be charged with murder if someone dies as a result of the felony. 

From justia.com:

The felony murder rule is a rule that allows a defendant to be charged with first-degree murder for a killing that occurs during a dangerous felony, even if the defendant is not the killer. The felony murder rule applies only to those crimes that are considered “inherently dangerous,” as the rationale underlying the felony murder rule is that certain crimes are so dangerous that society wants to deter individuals from engaging in them altogether. Thus, when a person participates in an inherently dangerous crime, he or she may be held responsible for the fatal consequences of that crime, even if someone else caused the actual death.

The felony murder rule is often applied when an armed victim kills one of the criminal suspects attempting to victimize them. If there is a surviving accomplice, the accomplice may be charged under the felony murder rule.

Only four states do not have the felony murder rule in some form. Hawaii, Delaware, Kentucky, and Michigan have no felony murder rule.  They eliminated the rule between 1973 and 1980 as part of capital punishment reform.

If someone is charged with murder under the felony murder rule, the homicide will be coded as a murder in the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, not as a justified homicide. Examples of this practice are easily found online.

From amarillo.com:

Amarillo Police Department has identified the man shot at La Bella Pizza on Olsen Boulevard as Clayton Jerrell Morgan, according to a news release. Officers arrested his alleged accomplice, 29-year-old Ruben Ryel Rios, who police said was charged under the state’s felony murder rule that allows a person to be charged with murder if they are involved in a felony crime that causes a death.

From wbay.com:

An 18-year-old Appleton man was shot and killed by the target of a robbery at an apartment in Oshkosh, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News.

Tory Summers, 28, has been charged with Felony Murder in connection to the death of Cashmiere A.S. Hill. Summers is also charged with Armed Robbery and Burglary.

The FBI Uniform Crime Reports only catch about 20 percent of justified homicides in the United States. The felony murder rule is one of the reasons why the numbers are so low. How many of the murders in the FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) are from the Felony Murder Rule? In research published in 2002, the number of cases under the Felony Murder Rule were found to be substantial.

From virginia.edu:

Although nearly 20 percent of all murders annually are felony murders, no one has empirically validated the effects of the rule. This paper attempts to fill this hole using state-level data on felonies and felony homicides from 1970-98.

20 percent over a sample of 28 years is a a significant number. How many of those were justified killing which became murders under the Felony Murder Rule? We do not know. The FBI does not have a separate category for Felony Murder Rule homicides.

Justified Homicides are counted by the FBI under a very restrictive definition.

For private persons, there were 331 justified homicides recorded by the FBI UCR in 2016  The FBI UCR estimated the number of murders to be 17,250 for the same year.

Justified Homicides, other than by law enforcement officers, were 1.9 percent of all homicides recorded by the FBI in the UCR. Surveys indicate these are only one fifth of the actual justified homicides. The real number of justified homicides is close to 10% of all homicides.

Felony Murder Rule homicides may be close to 20 percent of all murders in the United States. There is plenty of room for significant numbers of felony murders recorded by the FBI to be justifiable homicides. Those homicides inflate the United States murder rate and decrease the “official’ number of justified homicides in the United States.

England eliminated the Felony Murder Rule in 1957.

2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30-year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.