Felony Murder Rule

Not enough people take a stand against Felony Murder Regulations. Other counties have far better justice systems. The US has lead our citizens to believe we are the greatest when in reality we are only the greatest at getting away with lack of due process, organized slavery (prison workers) and human rights violations in the prison system. Felony Murder law isn’t being used properly and when you add that to a mandatory minimum sentence there is simply no way to make that just. And no attorney (prosecutor or not) should wield that kind of power ever for any reason period. The abuse of that law is disgusting so it needs to go.” -Blaire Granger, Director of Just Us

Felony Murder Rule (FMR) definition: a legal theory under which a person is charged with first-degree murder is any death even an accidental one results from the commission of certain felonies such as arson, robbery, burglary, etc. All participants in the felony can, and most likely will, be held equally liable- even those who did no harm, had no weapon, and had no intent to hurt anyone

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I know that because I am innocent I don’t often talk about the felony murder regulations. The messed up laws made it easier for the government to wrongfully convict me. It’s a very vague law that gives the prosecutor immense power that is too easily abused.

The Felony Murder Rule is an arbitrary law; outside of the criminal justice system, unless your family has been impacted by this law you may not even know of it’s existence. FMR is a weapon of the government, used by prosecutors across the state of California to make murder convictions easier.

The law is responsible for putting countless individuals in prison, sentenced to the harshest penalties allowed; Life Without the Possibility of Parole and the Death Penalty. This is one of the few laws left allowing juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole. There are so many people sentenced under the Felony-Murder Rule the state  of California has no count on the actual number. Many of whom are not even guilty of killing anyone.

What is the difference you may wonder if you don’t already know? For a traditional first-degree murder charge, or even a second-degree murder murder or manslaughter charge you must actually be guilty of killing someone. The prosecutor must prove beyond all reasonable doubt the accused intentionally killed another human being.  Under the felony-murder rule all the prosecutor must prove is during the commission of a felony someone died. It can even be unintentional or an accident. Under this law is anyone dies for any reason, every single person involved in the felony is automatically guilty of Felony-Murder.

The standard to prove Felony-Murder is so far below First-Degree Murder it is a travesty of justice o allow the same harsh penalties for both. Especially for those who are not even guilty of actual murder. Yes, people need to be held accountable for their criminal actions but there was a time when “the punishment fit the crime” in California.

There is another harsh reality of Felony-Murder. With a lower standard to prove guilt it automatically makes it easier for the innocent to be wrongfully convicted. Which is what happened to me 13 years ago.

When I was accused of committing murder I was charged under the Felony-Murder Rule. Even though I was only 16 years old and there was no physical evidence against me, the prosecutor filed my case directly into adult court. At the time the law allowed this. All the prosecutor has to “prove” was that a felony was committed, I was accused of the felony, someone died during the felony and under the Felony-Murder Rule I am automatically guilty of Felony-Murder. No one cared that I was factually innocent of any involvement. No one cared that there is no physical evidence of any kind against me. No one cared that as a child I was completely unprepared to assist in my own defense.

Prosecutors do not care about truth and justice, they care only about winning. The oath they swear to uphold means nothing to them.  Felony-Murder Rule makes it easier for prosecutors to win “big” cases and advance their position for personal gain. FMR also makes it very easier for prosecutors to abuse their power when blinded by their desire to be tough on crime.

A law as easily abused as the FMR really should have no place in our criminal justice system. If someone is guilty of a felony there are already laws covering all felonies. If someone is guilty of murder there are laws that cover this in every degree. These laws are designed to require prosecutors to prove their allegations against the accused to the proper standard. There are specific standards of proof necessary  for each crime; the Felony-Murder Rule strips these standards away allowing prosecutors to play towards the emotions of jurors and the community.

Is FMR really the standard California wants for sentencing people, even children, to Life Without the Possibility of Parole? Or even Death for adults? And yes, the those accused of crimes and sentenced to prison are people. They are your neighbors, friends and family. They have wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, siblings, and children; all of whom are greatly impacted by the miscarriage of justice that is Felony Murder Rule.

written by Sean, November 2016

I’d like to thank Just Us for adding my case to their website in the fight against Felony Murder Regulations and wrongful conviction.

Helpful website from Felony Murder Elimination Project

About Sean & Emelia

In 2003 Sean O'Brien was wrongfully convicted in El Dorado County, CA and sentenced to Life Without Parole at the age of 16. We have been friends since grade school and are now married. Sean and I move forward together with the knowledge of his innocence, our faith in God, and hope that he will rightfully regain his freedom. Until then we embrace our journey wherever it may take us, cherishing each moment we have together and staying true to ourselves. This blog is about the past we share, our fight for freedom, life as it exists for us, and our path toward the future, whatever that may hold. Thank you for allowing us to be heard. God bless.
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