Sandra Bullock played a woman in love with a stranger who happened to fall into the path of an oncoming train in the movie, While you were sleeping. Things got out of hand when she told the nurse at the hospital she was his fiancé and the story took off from there. Eventually she had to fess up for her actions; but it all worked out and she lived happily ever after.
Closer to home, a young man was arrested here in Houston and charged with Felony Murder, a peculiar offense which covers unintentional deaths which are the result of entering into criminal behavior. The young man “allegedly was involved in the felony of burglary” and had admitted to having been caught red handed prior to his fleeing the scene and leaving his fellow burglary suspect behind. His partner in crime was shot by a police officer while wrestling for the officer’s gun according to the official report.
“Ed Chernoff, Smading’s attorney, called the charge unfair.
“A cop, rather than chase after some kids, decided to start shooting,” Chernoff said. “There was no need to start shooting.”
Legal scholars said felony murder is unusual and can be invoked in a number of situations.
“You see them in textbooks and occasionally in news stories, but they’re rare by comparison to your average homicide, obviously,” said University of Houston law professor Adam Gershowitz. “Felony murder is controversial anyway, and this is holding someone criminally liable for an unintentional murder of their friend, while they’re away from the scene.”
If you follow that line of thought then criminals aren’t responsible for bad things that happen when their plans go sour. The lazy cop just started blasting away, too lazy to chase some kid on foot; it’s all the cops fault. The burglary suspects only wanted to break in, steal some stuff and leave; they never intended for anyone to see them, scream out for help, call the cops and they certainly didn’t plan on getting shot.
You read about things like this all the time; a robber goes into the liquor store to grab some quick money and “accidentally” shoots the owner of the store. “It wasn’t my fault, he grabbed for my gun and it just went off”. An auto thief grabs an SUV and takes off, unaware there’s a baby in the back seat, leaves the child abandoned in the cold night air and wonders why he’s being arrested for kidnapping. This happens all the time.
Geoffery Corn, a professor of law at South Texas College of Law summed it up best:
“A reasonable person would foresee that the conduct you engaged in could lead to the death of someone - a cop, a home-owner or maybe even your co-felon,” Corn said. “Felony plus death equals murder.”
In spite of what you may have been led to believe, we are responsible for our actions, I was about to say “even if you’re fleeing the scene of a crime”; however, a better choice of words would be, “especially while you’re fleeing the scene of a crime. When you start a ball in motion what ever it runs over or into belongs to you.
This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.