Tuesday, December 04, 2007

NY Times Wants To Replace US Law with European Law 
Not kidding:

Early in the morning of March 10, 2003, after a raucous party that lasted into the small hours, a groggy and hungover 20-year-old named Ryan Holle lent his Chevrolet Metro to a friend. That decision, prosecutors later said, was tantamount to murder.

The friend used the car to drive three men to the Pensacola home of a marijuana dealer, aiming to steal a safe. The burglary turned violent, and one of the men killed the dealer’s 18-year-old daughter by beating her head in with a shotgun he found in the home.

Mr. Holle was a mile and a half away, but that did not matter.

He was convicted of murder under a distinctively American legal doctrine that makes accomplices as liable as the actual killer for murders committed during felonies like burglaries, rapes and robberies.

Mr. Holle, who had given the police a series of statements in which he seemed to admit knowing about the burglary, was convicted of first-degree murder. He is serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole at the Wakulla Correctional Institution here, 20 miles southwest of Tallahassee.

A prosecutor explained the theory to the jury at Mr. Holle’s trial in Pensacola in 2004. “No car, no crime,” said the prosecutor, David Rimmer. “No car, no consequences. No car, no murder.”

Most scholars trace the doctrine, which is an aspect of the felony murder rule, to English common law, but Parliament abolished it in 1957. The felony murder rule, which has many variations, generally broadens murder liability for participants in violent felonies in two ways. An unintended killing during a felony is considered murder under the rule. So is, as Mr. Holle learned, a killing by an accomplice.

India and other common law countries have followed England in abolishing the doctrine. In 1990, the Canadian Supreme Court did away with felony murder liability for accomplices, saying it violated “the principle that punishment must be proportionate to the moral blameworthiness of the offender.”

Countries outside the common law tradition agree. “The view in Europe,” said James Q. Whitman, a professor of comparative law at Yale, “is that we hold people responsible for their own acts and not the acts of others.”
No, Professor Whitman. Quite the contrary.

This particular case seems a little draconian, sure. I think that intent matters. But that's a question for the jury to consider, and they already considered it.

The Times article is one in a series of articles that examines aspects of American justice which are, in the view of the editors of the New York Times, "unique in the world."

The underlying assumption, natch, is that the cretins in Europe who gave us the Holocaust, raped German women by the millions in the aftermath of WWII, and sponsored the Srebrenica massacre, or stood by idly and watched it happen, are somehow more enlightened than us backwards Yanks.

I think it could be an interesting series. But I don't trust the NY Times to do it. Why? Because not until you get to the end of the story do you learn that Holle was actually offered a way out: A plea bargain that would have let him off with perhaps 10 years at most, instead of life. The prosecutor acknowledged that he was "not as culpable as the others."

Holle decided not to take it. Good lawyer you had there, Holle. He didn't tell you you could be charged with the same murder that your buddies were?

Finally, here's another laugh line from the genius editors at the NY Times:

Mr. Holle, who rejected the deal, has spent some time thinking about the felony murder rule.

“The laws that they use to convict people are just — they have to revise them,” he said. “Just because I lent these guys my car, why should I be convicted the same as these people that actually went to the scene of the crime and actually committed the crime?”

Mr. Rimmer sounded ambivalent on this point.

“Whether or not the felony murder rule can result in disproportionate justice is a matter of opinion,” Mr. Rimmer said. “The father of Jessica Snyder does not think so.”

That's "ambivalent?"

I have an idea. Let's worry less about Europe's laws, and worry more about striking the fear of God into people who knowingly aid and abet murderous thugs intent on committing home invasion.

Splash, out


Via Memeorandum.

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I served on a jury a few months back where this exact same issue came up. The prosecution spent a LOT of time explaining the concept of felony murder and how it applied, the judge gave us very detailed instructions on what constituted such a crime.

Pretty much the only defense (which is what the defendant's lawyers claimed) would be not knowing ahead of time.

Unfortunately for him, his own testimony on the stand and his video taped statement to the cops when he was arrested blew that right out of the water.

What was unusual was that it was his accomplice who was killed during the drug deal/robbery, not the guy they were trying to rob.

But, as the judge made very clear, it DOES NOT MATTER who dies in the commision of a crime. Any death is grounds for a murder charge.

BTW... guilty on all charges, 37 to life.
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