Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/26/14: Felony Murder

The common law felony murder rule holds that if a person kills another while committing or attempting to commit a felony, the killing is classified as murder. This can include unintended and accidental deaths caused during the felony, and also extends criminal liability to all participants in the felony for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of that felony. The felony murder rule is therefore essentially a ‘strict liability’ criminal offense. In most states, felony murder is treated as first-degree murder. The origins of felony murder are often traced back to Lord Dacres’ Case in the U.K. in 1535, in which Lord Dacres was convicted of murder and executed after members of his hunting party killed a gameskeeper while unlawfully hunting game in a park. Despite its ancient origins, the U.K. abolished the felony murder rule in 1957.

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