The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has changed the longstanding felony murder law in the Commonwealth. The Felony Murder Law is a rule that allows a person to be charged with first-degree murder when he or she kills someone, even accidentally. Furthermore, any person involved in the death, even if not the actual killer, can be charged with first-degree murder. The felony murder rule can be applied to certain violent felonies, such as:
Rape: The crime of rape is nonconsensual sexual intercourse with an individual using physical force, a threat of injury, or fear to the victim.
Kidnapping: The crime of kidnapping involves taking another person from one location to another location against his or her will or holding a person in a controlled environment.
Arson: The crime of arson involves the intentional and malicious act of burning any type of property including forest land.
Until now, the intent to commit a felony was all that was needed to establish malice. Under Massachusetts law, anyone convicted of first-degree murder is automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The new SJC ruling on the felony murder law creates changes to the decades-old rule. With the changes in the law, defendants involved in fatal crimes can no longer be convicted of first-degree murder unless the prosecution can prove:
The defendant intended to kill
The defendant intended to cause grievous bodily harm
The defendant knew the actions would result in death
The rule impacts accomplices of fatal crimes, such as the getaway driver in a bank robbery, who may have been a part of the crime but not the person who committed the actual murder with a firearm.
The SJC established the new ruling in the case of Timothy Brown of Lowell, who was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder. He supplied a pistol and hooded sweatshirts to the killers involved in a home invasion that resulted in the death of two brothers during a robbery attempt in 2009. Brown was not present during the fatal encounter. The SJC changed his first-degree murder conviction to a verdict of second-degree murder. Brown is now eligible for parole.
If you have been charged with a violent crime that could result in a felony conviction or want to know how the changes in the felony murder law affect your case, speak with a criminal defense attorney. Boston Criminal Defense Attorney, Edward Molari can provide you with legal advice that may help reduce the punishment or lessen the charge. He cares about your situation and provides personalized legal services in every case. Contact Attorney, Edward Molari at 617-942-1532 for a free consultation.