HARRISBURG, Pa – January 21, 2016 – State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) today announced a new proposal to eliminate the crime of second degree murder, also known as “felony murder,” from Pennsylvania law.
Under current law, if you are involved as an accomplice in any felony, and someone is killed during the commission of that felony, you are guilty of second degree murder. This is true even if you did not kill anyone, and even if you did not know that anyone would be killed or even could be killed. In other words, if more than one person is involved in the perpetration of a felony, each person involved is legally responsible for a criminal homicide that occurs as a result. A guilty verdict for second degree murder requires a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Senator Leach sent a cosponsorship memo to his Senate colleagues to explain his proposal and ask for their support.
Senator Leach commented on his proposal:
“The felony murder statute has resulted in unjust and even absurd results. For example, a getaway driver who thinks his friend is just going to grab the cash out of the register at a convenience store while the getaway driver waits inside the car, and does not know his friend has a gun or that he intends to shoot anyone, is guilty of murder if his friend kills someone in the store. This is true even though the getaway driver never entered the store. We’ve even seen cases where the person who actually kills someone is punished less than the accomplice who did not kill someone.
One of the foundational principles of justice is that we must punish people for crimes they commit or intend to commit in a way commensurate with the crimes. The felony murder statute violates that principle, in that it imprisons for life people who did not kill or intend to kill anyone. Such an unjustified punishment undermines the effectiveness of our justice system and the public’s faith in it. Furthermore, paying to imprison someone for life, despite a lack of intent to kill anyone, is a bad deal for taxpayers, as it’s enormously costly but does not make the public safer.”
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