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Hines v. State

    Brief Fact Summary. A man mistook his friend for a turkey when he shot and killed him while they were hunting.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A convicted felon possession of a firearm can be inherently dangerous felony that serves as the predicate felony for felony murder.

     

    Facts. A convicted felon, Robert Lee Hines (D) went hunting with a group of his friends and relatives. Towards dusk, Hines (D) shot at a turkey which he heard gobble about eighty feet away, only for it to be one of his friends, who later died from the gunshot. Hines (D) was charged by the state for felony murder by using a charge of a firearm by a convicted felon as a predicate felony supporting the felony-murder charge. During the trial, the court found that Hines (D) was drinking before and during the hunting party and he was aware that the other hunters were nearby but did not know exactly where they were. Hines (D) was convicted of felony murder by the jury but he appealed.

    Issue. does the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon be inherently dangerous felony that serves as the predicate felony for felony murder?

    Held. (Fletcher, C.J.) Yes. A convicted felon possession of a firearm can be inherently dangerous felony that serves as the predicate felony for felony murder. The circumstances surrounding the case such as the intentional firing of the gun, drinking before and during the hunt, knowing that the potential victims were nearby and firing an unsafe shot all demonstrates that Hines’s (D) possession of a firearm as a convicted felon was an inherently dangerous activity that can support felony murder. The court affirmed the ruling.

     

    Dissent. (Sears, J.) this case is quite different from Ford v State, 423 S.E. 2d 255 (Ga. 1992) which did not lay down a test for identifying inherently dangerous activities. The possession of firearm by Hines (D) was not an inherently dangerous activity but could be seen as negligent. Hence, for persons whose moral culpability warrants such severe punishment, the sentence of life in prison should be reserved.

     

    Discussion. subtle distinction not stated in the casebook excerpts is turned on by Hines (D). The possession of the firearm was not focused on by the majority or the dissent as it suggested they did, instead, the manner in which the defendant possessed the firearm was the focus of the justices.


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