Brief Fact Summary.
The State sought a felony murder conviction for Hickman (Defendant), one of a group of burglars who were being chased by police officers when one officer accidentally shot another.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Even when the homicide is committed by a police officer, the felony-murder rule applies.
It is a sound principle of law which inheres in common reason that where two or more persons engage in a conspiracy to commit robbery and an officer or citizen is murdered while in immediate pursuit of one of their number who is fleeing from the scene of the crime with the fruits thereof in his possession, or in the possession of a co-conspirator, the crime is not complete in the purview of the law, inasmuch as said conspirators have not won their way even momentarily to a place of temporary safety and the possession of the plunder is nothing more than a scrambling possession.View Full Point of Law
The police surprised a group emerging from a burglary and gave chase. One officer believed another officer to be one of the suspects, and shot and killed him. Defendant, one of the burglars, was tried for murder. The State requested an instruction on felony murder, but the court declined. The State appealed.
When the homicide at question is committed by a police officer, does the felony-murder rule still apply?
(Scott, J.) Yes. Even when the homicide is committed by a police officer, the felony-murder rule applies. Although this conclusion is not directly found in the language of the statute, it is a logical one. It is natural and probable that law enforcement will try to stop a crime and it is a possibility that, while doing so, a law enforcement officer will kill another. The sequence of events that led to the homicide was started by the felons and so the responsibility for the death is theirs. Reversed and remanded for sentencing.
Not all jurisdictions follow this approach. Some jurisdictions, such as New York, have statutes that provide a different standard. There is a debate over whether the application of the rule in this case fits the rationale for the felony-murder rule.