Felony murder has been a criminal charge in the United States since the nineteenth century
1) Felony murder has been a criminal charge in the United States since the nineteenth century. Felony murder was developed for offenders who had committed murder while attempting to commit a felony (Brown, 2010). Felony murder only requires the defendant to have the intent to commit the initial felony crime (Pok,2019). There are other forms of murder, such as murder in the 2nd degree, negligent homicide, and vehicular homicide. Second-degree murder does not involve the premeditation of murder. In some states, it also includes the unlawful distribution of drugs such as fentanyl. Negligent homicide consists of the death of another while acting negligently. Vehicular homicide involves death from a motor vehicle, and in most states, a person commits this offense when they are under the influence of some type of intoxicant.
A typical scenario that would fall under felony murder is a robbery that resulted in a death. The offender has the intent to commit the robbery but never had the intention to kill the victim. In August of 2016, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent De’ Greaun Fraizer was killed in the line of duty while conducting an undercover drug transaction with offender Brenden Burns. During the operation, Special Agent Fraizer was shot by Burns during an attempted robbery. In 2019 Burns plead guilty to first-degree murder (Stephenson, 2019). Mr. plead guilty to first-degree murder because of the subsection in Tennessee Code Annotated 39-13-202 section (a)(2). This section states that a person commits first-degree murder in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate robbery. This section continues to lists multiple felony offense (T.C.A. 39-13-202).
On July 22, 2020, Mr. Chas Harville made an initial appearance in court on a charge of reckless homicide in Crawford County, Wisconsin. Mr. Harville is accused of causing severe head trauma to a 3-year-old while he was caring for him. These injuries have resulted in the death of this child, and Mr. Harville has been charged with reckless homicide (Williams, 2020). In Wisconsin, a person commits the offense of felony murder when a death occurs while committing a felony. One of the felonies included in the Wisconsin code, WI Stat 940.03, is battery or assault. Mr. Harville is accused of assaulting this child until it resulted in death. Since this is a fairly new case, not many details have been released. I feel that if Mr. Harville had assaulted the child out of anger, I think there will be enough proof to show intent to commit a felony without the intent to commit the murder.
Brown, K. D. (2010). Murder liability and leaving the scene of an accident: an argument for an extension of the felony-murder rule in Missouri.UMKC Law Review,79(1), 195–210.
LexisNexis. (2020). Advance lexis. https://advance.lexis.com/documentpage/?pdmfid=1000516&crid=ab699bc4-578e-49cf-9567-d1a2cd697f75&config=025054JABlOTJjNmIyNi0wYjI0LTRjZGEtYWE5ZC0zNGFhOWNhMjFlNDgKAFBvZENhdGFsb2cDFQ14bX2GfyBTaI9WcPX5&pddocfullpath=/shared/document/statutes-legislation/urn:contentItem:5SGM-BK70-R03J-R158-00008-00&pdcontentcomponentid=234179&pdteaserkey=sr0&pditab=allpods&ecomp=d5w_kkk&earg=sr0&prid=6cdc793a-8e89-4515-bd0e-35e94676a7c6
Pok, K. L. (2019). California Senate Bill 1437 Offers a Disproportionate Response to Narrowing Accomplice Liability for Felony Murder.Thomas Jefferson Law Review,42(1), 63–88
Stephenson, C. (2019). Suspect to spend life in prison after pleading guilty to murder of TBI Special Agent De’Greaun ‘Dee’ Frazier. https://www.jacksonsun.com/story/news/crime/2019/10/07/tbi-murder-special-agent-degreaun-frazier-brenden-tyler-burns-guilty/3902811002/
Williams, B. (2020). Crawford county man appears in court on child-abuse homicide charge. https://www.wizmnews.com/2020/07/22/crawford-county-man-appears-in-court-on-child-abuse-homicide-charge/
2) Felony murder differs significantly from other forms of murder. It has been in existence for well over a century (Evelo & Greene, 2013). Under this statute, an individual can be charged with murder when a person dies while he/she is committing a felony offense, whether intentional or unintentional (Schmalleger & Hall, 2017). The felony murder rule focuses on the harm caused by the offense rather than his/her intent (Schmalleger & Hall, 2017). The felonious offense committed meets the mens rea requirement for murder (Evelo & Greene, 2013).
Moreover, both first-degree murder and second-degree murder require that the offender must either intentionally or knowingly kill another human being. Meaning, one must at least know that his/her actions will result in the death of another. Typically, individuals who commit murder intend to kill (Evelo & Greene, 2013). A defendant is often charged with a lesser type of homicide when the intent is lacking (Evelo & Greene, 2013). The stipulations for felony murder vary by state.
Tennessee’s first-degree murder statute includes felony murder. According to T.C.A § 39-13-202, one can be charged with first-degree murder if:
- He/she plans and purposely kills another person,
- He/she kills another person during the commission of or attempting to commit: a terroristic act, any degree of rape of an adult or child, aggravated child abuse/neglect, any degree of robbery, all burglary offenses, theft, the kidnapping of an adult or child, physical abuse, the neglect of an adult individual considered to be elderly or vulnerable, aggravated abuse and neglect of a child, or highjack any aircraft, or
- He/she causes another person’s death by actively throwing or discharging a bomb or any other explosive device (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202 (Lexis Advance)).
Numbers two and three are the felony murder statute for this state. Only the intent to commit the felonious offense, not culpable mens rea is the requirement for charging an offender (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202 (Lexis Advance)).
As with all other controversial topics, some individuals approve of felony murder, while others disapprove of it. Either way, it is a criminal statute in many states. In the Tennessee Criminal Appeals case State v. Patterson (2018), Terry Patterson appealed his conviction of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, aggravated child endangerment, voluntary manslaughter, and second-degree murder (State v. Patterson, 2018). He received a prison sentence totaling 106 years (State v. Patterson, 2018). Patterson’s conviction stemmed from him beating his young son to death (State v. Patterson, 2018).
In 2015, Patterson became enraged when his three-year-old son refused to eat his supper, and he proceeded to beat the child about his head (State v. Patterson, 2018). He found his child unresponsive the next morning (State v. Patterson, 2018). Although the defendant was convicted of a lesser murder, I believe he should have been convicted of felony murder. Tennessee’s felony murder statute states the commission of aggravated child abuse or aggravated child neglect resulting in the death of a child is grounds for felony murder. Patterson was charged and convicted of both.
Evelo, A. J., & Greene, E. (2013). Judgments about felony-murder in hindsight.Applied Cognitive Psychology,27(3), 277–285. https://doi-org.bethelu.idm.oclc.org/10.1002/acp.2903
Schmalleger, F. & Hall, D. E. (2017). Criminal law today. (6th ed.). Prentice Hall/Pearson. https://betheluniversityonline.net/grad360/default.aspx?SectionID=827&tabid=155#/unit/1/Read
State v. Patterson, W2017-01481-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. 2018). http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/patterson_terry_opn.pdf
Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202 (Lexis Advance). https://advance.lexis.com/documentpage/?pdmfid=1000516&crid=b6d40346-952d-4dbc-822c-9360252cc54e&nodeid=ABNAAKAACAAC&nodepath=/ROOT/ABN/ABNAAK/ABNAAKAAC/ABNAAKAACAAC&level=4&haschildren=&populated=false&title=39-13-202. First degree murder.&config=025054JABlOTJjNmIyNi0wYjI0LTRjZGEtYWE5ZC0zNGFhOWNhMjFlNDgKAFBvZENhdGFsb2cDFQ14bX2GfyBTaI9WcPX5&pddocfullpath=/shared/document/statutes-legislation/urn:contentItem:5SGM-BK70-R03J-R158-00008-00&ecomp=d38_kkk&prid=463fd289-1799-41ed-8bb4-48424b443677