Thursday, January 12, 2006

'Lori's Law' (H.B. 102) is a good idea, sort of

The amendment to the sentence for murder in H.B. 102 is long overdue. But the bill's amendment to the predicate offense list is problematic.

Murder is a first degree felony punishable by five years to life in prison. Aggravated kidnapping is also a first degree felony punishable by 6, 10, or 15 years to life in prison, depending on the nature of the crime.

This has long baffled me. If I force you at gunpoint into my car and drive around for a few hours, I get a harsher sentence than if bludgeon you to death with a hammer. Representative Fowlke wants to fix this, and I say, GOOD.

But her amendment to the predicate offenses troubles me. Predicate offenses are used to establish felony murder. That is, if you commit or try to commit certain felonies, rape, arson, robbery, etc., and somebody is killed in the process, you're guilty of murder, regardless of your intent.

Fowlke has added felony discharge of a firearm to the predicate offense list. That crime occurs whenever "the actor discharges a firearm in the direction of any person or persons, knowing or having reason to believe that any person may be endangered." So if I fire a gun knowing I might hit somebody, and I do hit them and kill them, I'm guilty of felony murder.

That sounds a lot like manslaughter.

The bill would not make the statutes similar enough to create a Shondel problem. But it does seem to designate most reckless firearm homicides as felony murder rather than manslaughter.


Blogger Charley Foster said...

It's a percecptive point. I imagine her intent must be that if one's reckless behavior causes, say, a shootout among gangsters ultimately leading to a death, one is guilty of felony murder. But, you're right. Under her draft, reckless manslaughter becomes murder. We should bring it to her attention and see what she says. Okay I will.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Citizen 451 said...

I'd be surprised if this hasn't been brought to her attention. These bills usually go through a fairly healthy vetting with leg counsel and groups like the statewide association of prosecutors.

If you do talk to her, I'd like to hear what she says.

5:41 PM  

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