A Missouri man has been convicted of second-degree murder in the death of a police officer, even though he was hiding in a woods 30 miles away at the time.
Jurors deliberated more than three hours before returning the guilty verdict against Massigh J. Stallmann, 28, of High Ridge.
The trooper was Ralph C. Tatoian of north St. Louis County, a trained sniper who was rushing along Interstate 44 to join the manhunt in Franklin County on April 20, 2005. He died when he struck a tractor-trailer that had stopped to help another motorist.
Even though Stallmann was hiding in woods some 30 miles away from Tatoian's crash site, prosecutors won the murder conviction. Missouri law allows a felony murder charge when an officer is killed while responding to aid in a felony arrest.
The defendant isn't the most sympathetic figure. He had exchanged gunfire with other officers before the manhunt. But it's the precedent that's troubling. And this makes the conviction even more suspect:
Taaffe said Tatoian had a slight blood-alcohol level, was late for his callout to duty and drove fast in a construction zone. A prosecution witness said that the low level of alcohol wouldn't impair the trooper.
I'm not a fan of the felony murder doctrine to begin with. This case seems to be a good example of the absurd results you can get when you start charging people for crimes they didn't intend to commit.