If you’re, say, a getaway driver for a robbery, and your co-participant kills someone, even accidentally, during the incident, you can still get charged with first degree murder in California.
That’s because of the “felony murder rule,” which says that if you or your partner kill someone, even if it’s not on purpose, while committing a felony, you can face murder charges. If convicted, that means a sentence of 25 years to life.
SB 1437, proposed by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) aims to narrow the scope of the rule, which she says unjustly punishes accomplices. The bill specifies that murder charges would apply to those who commit the homicide or knowingly participate in a plan to kill.
Some law enforcement groups are opposed to the rollback, saying that the rule acts as a deterrent to those who might otherwise participate in serious felonies.
We discuss the pros and cons of the legislation.
Kate Chatfield, policy director for Re:store Justice, a non profit that advocates for criminal justice reform in CA, which is a co-sponsor of SB 1437; she is also an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law
Eric Siddall, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney; vice president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, a collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 deputy district attorneys who work for Los Angeles County; he tweets @EricSiddall