I remember when I first heard of the “felony murder rule” when I was a first-year law student. It sounded completely insane. Stupid even. “Kafkaesque” is not a bad description, actually. Imagine being charged with a murder you didn’t commit. But not just where you’re held responsible when you’re an accomplice and one of your other accomplices was the shooter… imagine you and your buddies (all un-armed, mind you) commit some crime. Some third party shoots at you and your buddies, killing one of your buddies. You’re arrested and charged with murder…for killing your buddy. You say, I didn’t shoot him, I didn’t even fire a shot. Wait a minute, the guy was firing at us! How could I be charged with murder.
Welcome to the felony murder rule. Bizarre? Yes. But it’s real. This is the ordeal facing Blake Layman, a teenager & member of the so-called “Elkhart 4.” What’s worse? Blake was only 16 and charged and convicted as an adult. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison for this bizarre “crime.”
According to Ed Pilkington of the Guardian, 46 states have some sort of felony murder rule on the books (that would include Texas).
“Of those, 11 states unambiguously allow for individuals who commit a felony that ends in a death to be charged even when they are the victims, rather than the agents, of the killing.”
The Indiana Supreme Court is looking at the case to see if they’ll allow this twisted felony murder rule to stay on the books in their state. Hopefully soon the number of states who put up with this nonsense will be down to 10.