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  • Eric Zale

Felony Murder should not be a life sentence

A person who kills someone in cold blood in Colorado will go to prison for the rest of their natural life, without the possibility of parole. The getaway driver of a bank robbery gone bad, or the confederate of a robbery turned sideways will also go to prison for life, even if they did not kill anyone and even if they did not know that the other person was going to kill someone. It's called Felony Murder and what that means is that if a person dies while an individual is committing a select group of felonies, the individual who committed the felony is considered to have killed that person the same as if he acted with intent and after deliberation in the killing of another person. The question is: is this fair? Should we punish people the same for meaning and or planning on killing someone, and someone who did not want anyone to die, but instead was committing a dangerous act. The concept of felony murder came from the United Kingdom and was brought to this country when we adopted its common law jurisprudence. The idea behind it is that if you commit a dangerous crime and a person dies as a result you should be guilty of murder. Its supposed to act as a deterrence from people committing dangerous crimes. What we we have learned however in the several centuries since this rule was adopted is that it does not act as a deterrence. We have also learned that it can lead to unjust results. In Colorado, we recognize that not all murders are the same and not all homicides require that the person committing the murder should spend the rest of their lives in prison. Murder in the second degree is a class two felony, and carries a punishment of 16-48 years in prison. This is the appropriate punishment for a person who commits felony murder. The United Kingdom removed felony murder in 1957 and its long past time that we follow their footsteps. Reducing the sentence from a mandatory life sentence to a range of 16-48 years is the principled and just thing to do.

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