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People v. Chun

    Brief Fact Summary. At trial, Chun (D) owned up that he had shot and killed a person, injured two others. But he maintained that he had merely wanted to scare the victims and did not aim his gun at anyone in particular.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When a felony merges with homicide in a situation where the underlying felony in a felony murder case is assaultive in nature, this cannot serve as a basis for a felony murder jury instruction.

    Facts. The day Chun (D) had fired gunshots at the victims vehicle that had parked besides their own motor vehicle, Chun (D) was sitting behind Chan while Chan was driving. After the shooting spree, Chun (D) had killed one person and seriously injured two others. At trial, Chun (D) owned up to the crime he had committed but maintained that he had not specifically pointed his gun at a particular person. The jury was instructed on a second-degree murder by the court on the premise of Chun’s (D) underlying felony of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle. The jury however found Chun (D) guilty of second-degree felony murder but acquitted him of attempted murder. Chun (D) appealed this judgment.

    Issue. When a felony merges with homicide in a situation where the underlying felony in a felony murder case is assaultive, can this serve as a basis for a felony murder jury instruction?

    Held. (Chin, J.) Yes. When a felony merges with homicide in a situation where the underlying felony in a felony murder case is assaultive in nature, this cannot serve as a basis for a felony murder jury instruction. The threat of immediate violent injury is included as an element of assaultive felony. Elements of crimes, rather than the facts surrounding an issue, are looked into by the court in order to determine whether the felony charge merges with homicide. The crime only merges with homicide on the ground that the elements of the underlying felony have an assaultive aspect. In this particular scenario, the felony charge cannot serve as the basis for a second-degree felony murder charge because shooting at an occupied vehicle is assaultive in nature. Hence, the judgment is affirmed.

    Concurrence. (Moreno, J.) Second-degree felony murder rule should be done away with in all its ramifications. In a situation where a defendant commits second-degree murder during the commission of a felony that includes the threat of immediate violent injury, the juries are competent enough to recognize these situations.

    Discussion. In accordance with the first-degree murder principle, any death that occurs during the commission of particular felonies, which includes arson, rape or other sexual offenses, burglary, kidnapping or robbery, culminates to first-degree murder and the participants in the felony can be held criminally liable. This does not preclude those who did no harm and who did not intend to hurt anyone. All other felonies that are inherently dangerous to human life and not included in the list of felonies that are recognized under the first-degree felony murder rule, applies to second-degree felony murder. However, there is no congruence in the definition of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony murder by the States.


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