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State v. Hunter

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant, Hunter, was charged with felony murder under the felony murder rule, and asserted the defense of compulsion.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A criminal defendant is only prohibited from asserting the compulsion defense in cases of an intentional killing.

    Facts.

    Hunter was given a ride by Remeta, while other were also riding in the vehicle. Remeta began to waive guns around and talk about killing hitchhikers. Then Remeta proceeded to shoot a police office who had pulled him over. The group in the vehicle went to an elevator where they took two people hostage, allegedly with the help of Hunter. After the truck drove some distance, Remeta shot and killed the two hostages and Hunter was charged with murder under the felony murder rule for his participation in the crime. At the time of the crime, a Kansas statute prohibited the defense of compulsion for murder or manslaughter cases, but was silent on felony murder cases. Hunter asked for a jury instruction of the defense of compulsion arguing he did not think he had a chance to escape. The trial court rejected his request.

    Issue.

    Whether a criminal defendant is only prohibited from asserting the compulsion defense in cases of an intentional killing.

    Held.

    Yes. A criminal defendant is only prohibited from asserting the compulsion defense in cases of an intentional killing. 

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    The defense of compulsion may be asserted in felony murder cases but not in the case of an intentional killing or voluntary homicide and the defense is only limited in these type of cases. If a defendant has a gun pointed at him and is told to go burglarize a house, he may plead a defense of compulsion, so it is illogical that if a death occurred during that burglary, he could no longer assert the defense of compulsion. If the defendant presents evidence supporting the defense of compulsion in a felony murder case, he is entitled to a jury instruction on his defense.


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