The Petty Burglary that Led to a Life Sentence
In 2005, Christopher Dean was a man who had just been released on parole. He and a friend, Eric Flint, botched a burglary of a Florida home. The man whose home they burglarized ran down Flint with his SUV. By Florida statute, that counts as felony murder. Because Dean had been released on parole and then charged and convicted of felony murder, he was sentenced to life in prison, the minimum sentence for a paroled felon who commits second-degree murder. The court ordered Dean resentenced, but he was again sentenced to life in prison.
Understanding Felony Murder
There are some laws on the books that don’t make a lot of sense to laypeople. Felony murder is one of those laws. How does it make sense that an individual who did not commit a murder nor intend to harm anyone be charged with murder when they’re killed?
This happens all the time, however. The rule works like this: If in the commission of a felony, an accomplice or anyone else dies as a result of the felon’s actions then that felon can be charged with their murder. For this reasons, those who are attempting to flee cops who then shoot down one of the suspects can be charged with their murder. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t pull the trigger. All that matters is that someone died while they were committing a felony.
There are many instances in which felony murder makes some sense. For instance, if someone is robbing another individual and that individual pulls a gun and the robber shoots them in self-defense, we can all understand why they should be charged with murder. But holding someone responsible for a killing that was caused by someone else and calling that murder probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to most people. Nor should it.
Defenses to Felony Murder in Florida
Basically, the state can charge you with murder for any death that happens during the commission of a felony. So, in that sense, the only defense to felony murder is to prove that the felony was either not a felony or that defendant was innocent of the felony that they have been accused of.
There is no other trick to defending against a felony murder charge. In a situation like Christopher Dean’s, where it’s clear that he was committing the felony, there isn’t an awful lot that a defense attorney can do.
If You’ve Been Charged with Felony Murder
In the case of Christopher Dean, the state offered him a plea of 10 years for the burglary and the death of his friend. Dean rejected that plea because it meant admitting that he was responsible for Flint’s death. Meanwhile, the individual that plowed in Dean and Flint was never charged with a crime at all even though he pursued them and was responsible for Flint’s death. While taking a plea isn’t always the right choice, it may have been in Dean’s case.
Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney
Skier Law Firm P.A. has experience handling both high-profile murder cases and routine DUIs. If you’ve been accused of a crime, give us a call or contact us online and we can begin discussing your options.