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State v. Shock

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant beat a five year-old boy to death and was convicted of first-degree murder under a felony-murder rule.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The “other felony” required for a conviction under the felony-murder rule must be a collateral felony and does not include an act of personal violence against the victim which constitutes an element of the murder itself.

    Facts.

    Defendant brutally whipped a five year-old boy, resulting in the boy’s death, and was convicted of first-degree murder. Defendant appealed over the court’s instruction that Defendant’s intent to inflict great bodily harm on the boy, from which death ensued, was sufficient to convict for first-degree murder under the felony-murder rule.

    Issue.

    Can an act of personal violence against the deceased victim which would constitute an element of the murder itself qualify as the “other felony” required for a conviction under the felony-murder rule?

    Held.

    (Hough, J.) No. The “other felony” required for a conviction under the felony-murder rule must be a collateral felony and does not include an act of personal violence against the victim which constitutes an element of the murder itself. Acts of violence against the victim which constitute an element of the murder are merged into the murder and are not separate offenses from the homicide. The statute appears to intend for the qualifying “other felonies” to include only those felonies that existed at common law. Those other felonies must be such that could be committed separately from the murder, such as arson, rape, robbery, and burglary. When great bodily harm is inflicted upon a victim and the victim dies as a result, there is no felony that has been committed separate from the murder itself. Here, the appropriate instructions would be as to the law of first-degree murder under a theory of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, as well as to the law concerning manslaughter. Reversed and remanded.

    Dissent.

    (Norton, J.) The felony of committing great bodily harm is no more merged with the killing of the victim than would be the felony of rape, if that rape resulted in the death of the victim.

    Concurrence.

    (Henry, J.) The statute intended to recognize and designate the crimes and punishments for homicides committed during the commission of arson, rape, robbery, and burglary. It did not intend to broaden the class of constructive murders.

    Discussion.

    The requirement of an independent felony not merged with the homicide is what keeps manslaughter from being murder.


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