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State v. Goodseal

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellant was convicted of felony murder. Appellant argues that unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon is not inherently dangerous to constitute a felony that the felony murder rule can be applied to.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. To justify application of the felony murder rule, the felony must be one inherently or foreseeable as dangerous to human life.

    Facts. After Appellant was released from prison, Appellant went to find work. Appellant obtained a gun and met up with a dancer at a topless bar. Appellant entered into an agreement with the dancer that he would act as her jealous husband to prevent her from having to ‘turn a trick’ that evening. Appellant argued that when he interrupted the dancer and her target, he slipped and the gun he was carrying discharged and killed Victim. Appellant was convicted of felony murder. Appellant argued that the felonious possession of a firearm was not a basis for felony murder.

    Issue. Whether unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon is an offense inherently dangerous to human life.

    Held. Affirmed, unlawful possession of a firearm was a sufficient basis for application of the felony murder rule.
    Despite the language of the statute, the felony must be one inherently or foreseeable as dangerous to human life.

    The only rational function of the felony murder rule is to furnish an added deterrent to the perpetration of felonies which by their nature or by the attendant circumstances, creates a foreseeable risk of death.

    Dissent. The dissent argued that the felony murder rule should be extended to far because it is a highly artificial concept. Also the determination of whether the felony is inherently dangerous is a determination made in the abstract, not with reference to the particular facts of the case. The dissent further argued that the rule the majority created would be difficult and burdensome to apply.

    Discussion. The Court ruled that even though the statute said ‘any felony’ could be the subject of the felony murder rule, the statute requires an inherently dangerous felony. With respect to Appellant, the Court ruled that the circumstances of the commission of the felony are relevant to determine whether the felony murder rule should be applied.


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