Two women went to settle issues with their fists, but one of them brought a gun resulting in second-degree murder charges. The defendant’s sister was scheduled to engage in a fistfight in the park, but she brought a gun to “protect herself and her sister” and “make sure the fight was fair”. One could only surmise from the discharge of the weapon that the fight was “unfair”. But now the woman is facing second-degree murder charges.
The fight had considerable billing over social media and managed to attract several individuals familiar with the women and her beef. As the women fought, the suspect attempted to intervene by pistol-whipping the other combatant. However, the gun fired as it struck her and she was shot through the neck. The woman died of her injuries.
Analyzing the prosecution
To prove murder, you must be able to prove malice aforethought. However, state and federal law make some exceptions and allow prosecutors to pursue first-degree murder charges on the grounds of an attempted felony. If you attempt to commit a felony and someone dies, police can charge you with felony murder which has the same penalty structure as first-degree murder. In this case, the defendant has been charged with second-degree murder.
To win this prosecution, the police will need to either establish felony murder grounds or prove that the defendant attempted to kill the deceased. If they can’t, then they only have grounds for a manslaughter conviction.
Even the fact that the woman tried to pistol-whip the defendant is not grounds for a felony murder conviction since there was no intent to commit one of the felonies that qualify under the statute. If the victim had been elderly or a child, then that would be another story. However, if your felony is not one of the ones listed (and aggravated battery is not) then no felony murder charges can be prosecuted that rise to the same standard of first-degree murder.
Florida law allows a second class of felony murder charges that are punishable in accord with the sentencing structure of second-degree murder. Second-degree felony murder is punished on the basis of committing some act that is intrinsically dangerous to human life. One such act is pistol-whipping another individual without the safety on.
Is a conviction likely?
The felony murder rule is controversial because it often results in murder charges against defendants who had no intent to murder. Murder is a crime of intent. Felony murder makes it easy to prosecute individuals who cause the death of another accidentally while committing a felony. Depending on how literally you interpret Florida’s rule (and the courts are quite literal) then a conviction is likely. That doesn’t mean that it’s deserved. The defendant may also claim the defense of others.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing serious charges, call the West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today. We can help resolve your case fairly and ensure you aren’t railroaded on speculation and poor police work.