A 14-year-old black boy was shot and killed by a 75-year old white man.
The law says that if a killing occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a felony, the person or persons responsible for the felony can be charged with murder.
These deaths may be of individuals committing the felonies or of bystanders unlucky enough to be placed in harm’s way. The lives lost may also include police officers responding to the incident in question: death caused by friendly fire, heart attacks or the most common, traffic deaths, all come under the Felony Murder Rule. The most common felonies associated with this rule of law are robbery, burglary, rape and kidnapping.
Intent to kill is not necessary for the felony murder charge. The rule becomes effective when there is a loss of life during or soon after the felony, and there is some causal connection between the felony and the loss of life. This rule of law applies encompassing any death that occurred during the course of a felony, regardless of who caused the death.
Here are some examples:
If a police officer attempting to stop a bank robbery accidentally shot and killed an innocent person, all those involved in the commission of the robbery could be charged with murder.
If, during a shootout between gang members, someone accidently shoots and kills a bystander, all gang members can be charged.
If the police were chasing a vehicle with occupants that were wanted for armed robbery, and if either the police or the driver of the get-away car struck and killed a pedestrian, all those in the fleeing vehicle could be charged.
Simply think of it this way. If it wasn’t for the criminal actions of an individual, the dead person would still be alive.
Today, most jurisdictions have restricted the rule by mandating that the felony involved must be a dangerous one, a violent one or that the killing is foreseeable. Under several state statutes, the felony must be a proximate cause of the death. In other words, the killing must be the direct consequence of the felony.
The most current and prolific example of the Felony Murder Rule being applied took place in Lake County, Illinois. Five teenage cousins from Chicago, allegedly drove a stolen car to rural Lake County with the intent of committing burglaries and car thefts. While on private property, in the middle of the night, they were confronted by the 75-year-old property owner who was legally armed with an old pistol. As the groups of Chicagoans approached the elderly man, he stated he observed something in the hand of the closest subject and ordered them to retreat from his property. As they continued toward him in the darkness, fearing for his life he shot his gun, striking a fourteen-year-old boy in the head. The group collected the wounded boy, and all fled in the stolen car they had arrived in. As they entered the highway returning to the city, they encountered an Illinois State Trooper conducting a traffic investigation. They pulled over and put the wounded cousin in the care of the trooper, then immediately fled. A pursuit soon followed into and through the city back to the south side where the group originated from. The stolen vehicle ran out of gas and after foot chases, all were in police custody.
Recovered back at the scene was a 10-inch Bowe knife, reportedly located where the boy was shot. This was apparently what the 75-year-old saw flash before he fired the fatal shot.
Troopers attended to the wounded boy alongside the expressway to no avail; the boy expired from the single gunshot to the head.
All were eventually charged with numerous felonies including felony murder.
Race was immediately raised as a motivating factor for the most serious charge of murder. Discussions began instantly decrying the ‘racial fault line that lies underneath everything that happens in America’. The victim was an old white man defending his property and possibly his life, against a young black boy allegedly committing a burglary and auto theft.
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There are different viewpoints that can be accepted: murder is murder: whoever commits a felony that causes a loss of life should be punished accordingly. This rule of law does apply and historically dates back to English Law. The second viewpoint, being raised by certain activists, is that these boys are being punished more severely because the color of their skin and that if the same circumstances existed with white boys being the alleged criminals, no felony murder charges would be brought. Also, this boy was only 14-years-old and never involved in any recorded criminal behavior before this incident.
My personal belief is that color and race don’t matter. I always side with the victim. In this case, what if the old man held his fire. Would he be the victim of a murder with the Bowe knife protruding from his chest?
Discussions and arguments are left up to the courtroom. The judge who gets the bad luck of the draw will sit through this trial and delegate as much responsibility to social services and child psychologists as he or she can. He will make some sort of race-neutral decision based on evidence and serve his robes well. Society will be unhappy with the outcome and we will all do this again nest time.
To all my brothers and sisters in blue, lock and load and protect each other. And as always, stay safe.
View Larry Casey’s website at www.StoriesofaChicagoPoliceOfficer.com and review his book by the same name.
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