Murder

How to Get Charged With Murder Without Harming Anyone

An old man shoots a female robber in the back. Her accomplice gets arrested for murder. What?

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markseton/Flickr

Yesterday's headlines proclaimed that a possibly-pregnant woman had been shot and killed in California by an 80-year-old man whose house she was attempting to rob. Now Andrea Miller's co-burglar, Gus Adams, has been arrested on murder charges for her death.   

Upon reading this, my mind immediately went to Elaborate Plot territory: Was it actually Adams and the homeowner who were accomplices? Was the burglary merely a ruse to justify Miller's shooting? Is Los Angeles just one big Raymond Chandler novel after all? 

Alas, no. Adams was charged with murder under a california statute that holds accomplices accountable should partners in crime be killed on the job. Adams, who now faces a potential murder charge in addition to robbery chargers, is being held on more than $1 million bail.

It certainly seems like Adams deserves to be charged with robbery, and possibly assault—Long Beach police say Adams and Miller beat the elderly homeowner, Tom Greer, with their fists and body slammed him to the ground after he walked in on them mid-act. But murder? When Greer freely admits to chasing Miller and Adams into a back alley and shooting Miller in the back? 

It's not uncommon for the state to use this practice to ratchet up penalties for those already facing robbery charges. Earlier this week, a California teen was charged with three counts of murder in conjunction with a bank robbery where one hostage and his two alleged accomplices were killed. The young man could now be eligible for the death penalty. In a 2007 case, three young men broke into a home where the homeowner shot two of them to death. The surviving man was charged with their murders (though he was eventually acquitted by a jury). 

States across the country—Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Indiana, to name a few—have and enforce similar laws allowing for accomplice murder charges. In Arizona recently, a husband and wife team who attempted to rob a medical marijuana dispensary were charged with second-degree murder after their accomplice was killed. Under Arizona's "felony murder rule," someone who commits a felony that results in a death can be charged with murder even if they didn't kill anyone personally.

A few more recent cases: 

  • In June, two Southern Ohio men broke into a home. The resident stabbed one of the young intruders in self-defense. The other intruder was arrested on felony murder charges
  • Also in June, a 22-year-old West Virginia woman was arrested for murder after an alleged robbery co-conspirator wound up dead.
  • In May, a 16-year-old Texas boy was arrested on murder charges after a friend was killed in the course of their attempted smoke-shop robbery. 
  • In April, a 15-year-old who took part in a carjacking was charged with murder after his accomplice was shot and killed by the victim. 
  • Also in April, two Massachusetts teens attempted to rob a man who wound up fatally shooting one of them. The other was charged with his friend's murder. 

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  1. It’s hard to feel sorry for someone who beats up 80 year olds, but you managed it ENB.

      1. Yes, that’s standard a lot of places.

        Per your theory, the guy who drove the getaway car didn’t really rob the bank, right?

    1. Seriously? Because I still don’t feel sorry for him.

      Felony murder is a bit much for getting shot in the back while running away – assuming the shooter doesn’t get *that* judged as self-defense then adding FM to the burglar’s list of charges is out of line.

      But if it *is* self-defense then he *should* be on the hook for it.

  2. Only the state gets to kill – if someone else does it, they’re going to pin it on SOMEBODY.

  3. If they were already fleeing and Greer shot Miller in the back, why was Greer not arrested as well? Or was he and I just missed it?

    1. No, he wasn’t, though I guess there’s still the potential he could be.

      1. Okay, thanks for the clarification.

      2. Criminal law being as nutty as it is, could both he and the other robber be guilty of some form of homicide of the dead one?

  4. If this was a clean self-defense shooting, I would have no problem with this application of the felony murder rule.

    However, I’m thinking this was not a clean self-defense shooting. However, when the killing was actually a crime by the person who pulled the trigger, things get a lot murkier, IMO.

    1. I think felony murder frankly doesn’t make sense for your co-conspirators. Bystanders, yes, even if they were shot by law enforcement. I get why that works.

      But by making one criminal responsible for the death of another, we’re incentivizing them to watch out for one another. Why is that a good idea?

      Hell I’d flip it: If someone’s commiting a felony and his partner in crime shoots him in the back to get the loot, not a murder.

      1. Because they want to apply that to you too. That way they can bring trumped up charges against anyone who’s around when someone dies.

        At a party where someone ODs? Murder charges.

        Driving a vehicle and a passenger dies? Murder charges.

        At a party where a kid drowns in a pool? Murder charges.

        Plea bargains for everybody.

        1. Explain how that “applies to you too”?

          Kid drowns in a pool at a party?

          Felony murder rule can’t apply unless you were … knowingly involved in commission of a felony.

          You’re trying too hard.

          1. Also, felony homocide usually involves the commission of a serious violent felony. Robbery, rape, battery. In these cases it can easily be argued that the significant risk of someone dieing exists, and the perpetrators decision to commit the crime was what caused the death.

            I have little sympathy in most cases.

            It has been abused to charge someone who was a passenger in a car, because another passenger shot out of the window (drive-by).

          2. Kid drowns in a pool – you didn’t do enough to stop it = murder charges (not *felony murder* charges).

            But every death needs to be someone’s fault (according to the legal system).

      2. If I were Adams lawyer, I would simply argue that, given California’s gun control laws, he had no reasonable expectation that the old guy they were robbing would be armed. And if it turns out that the old guy did not have the gun legally permitted or stored or whatever, doesn’t that make the state complicit in the felony murder?

      3. I don’t think it makes sense ever. If you wouldn’t be liable for a wrongful death, you shouldn’t be criminally liable either.

      4. Oddly, despite this being the law for decades, criminals continue to not look out for each other.

        It’s almost as if they’re sociopathic or something.

    2. Yeah, this is clearly not justified by self-defense. I mean, there’s a certain amount of mild adrenaline-induced insanity you should expect from someone who’s surprised and assaulted in their own home, even shortly afterwards, but that’s a different sort of defense.

      1. If they were running off with any of his stuff, its still self-defense.

        My stuff is the result of my labor, if they are running away with it, they are enslaving me, so fuck em. A slave murdering his master is self-defense.

        1. s/murdering/killing/

        2. But the cops and courts enslave you even more, so they aren’t going to go for that.

          How is it you aren’t an anarchist, again?

          1. How is it you aren’t an anarchist, again?

            Because Im a realist.

            There is a very very very tiny role for government. How do cops and courts, when behaving properly, enslave me?

            I admit I put a big caveat on that.

            1. How do the cops and courts get funded without partially enslaving someone? Maybe some kind of user fee, I guess.

        3. I can’t talk for every state, but for PA at least, you can only use normal (as opposed to deadly) force to stop someone from running away with your stuff.

          1. Same for KY. You can shoot them inside the house, but once outside, you cant shoot them just because they are running away with your TV.

            Im arguing what the law should be, not what it is.

  5. “under a california statute”

    (in mythbuster’s ‘cliche auto-mechanic voice’)

    ‘Ah, well *there’s* your problem’

    1. Except the Felony Murder Rule is nearly universal these days.

      And it’s not obviously a bad idea, no matter how much our author here wants us to think it is.

      Since the price of entry for an FMR charge, by every statute I’ve seen, is to knowingly assist in the commission of a felony, the only problem I can see is that “felony” gets extended too much.

      But in this case, that’s not relevant – armed robbery and battery is a no bullshit felony.

      The only problem I can see here is that it’s odd to charge accomplice A with murder when B’s killing was lawful self-defense; if the killing was justified it feels weird to charge someone else with murder there, is all.

      I still don’t care a whole lot, because A chose willingly and knowingly to join in on, well, armed robbery and battery.

  6. Are you new to this?

    “Apparently it’s not uncommon for the state to use this practice to ratchet up penalties for those already facing robbery charges.”

    It has been common for years that accomplices may be charged in cases of defensive shootings. I don’t actually have a problem with this.Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

    1. Unless he forced her to do it, I don’t see how he’s responsible for her death. She chose to burglarize the house with him. The guy’s a pos and deserves to go to prison but that doesn’t mean he should be charged for something he didn’t do.

      1. Unless he forced her to do it, I don’t see how he’s responsible for her death.

        You don’t think he’s responsible for the foreseeable consequences (like hi accomplice getting shot by a homeowner) of the actions he chose to take?

        My only qualm is that I’m not sure he should be held responsible for a crime committed by an unrelated third party.

        1. I’d say that his accomplice is responsible for the consequences (foreseeable or not) of the actions that SHE chose to take.

          Consider this. In scenario A, the accomplice gets shot. In scenario B, the burglar’s actions are *exactly* the same in every way, but maybe it’s a windy night and the homeowner’s shot misses just wide. Nothing the burglar did influences which of those two scenarios plays out, but one is deserving of a murder charge? That doesn’t make sense to me.

          1. It would make as much sense to charge a burglar with attempted murder if he gets shot while committing a robbery and survives.

            1. Only in the sense that suicide or self harm would be a prosecutable crime. We haven’t quite reached that point yet.

          2. Exactly this

          3. Well, maybe in the second case, we ought to start prosecuting the burglar for *attempted* murder? I know we’d have to get rid of the idea that attempt is supposed to be a “specific intent” crime, but it’s been a long time since the criminal law has been reasonable about mens rea.

          4. In Scenario 2, no one died. So, that sounds like a Bo argument.

            Scenario 3: The homeowner misses wide and kills his neighbor. A and B are both guilty of FM. Their decision to commit robbery lead to a death.

            I have no problem with this. It was the decision to partipate in the robbery that started the ball rolling.

        2. I don’t think that it’s reasonably foreseeable that the homeowner would gun down the accomplice as she was fleeing (i.e., where there was no reasonable argument of self-defense or defense of others). Cops can’t shoot fleeing felons (with narrow exceptions), so homeowners should be held to the same standard.

          1. *Cops aren’t supposed to shoot fleeing felons, but do anyway all the time. Sometimes when they aren’t even a felon yet, unless you count fleeing an officer as a felony.

  7. Is this really not widely known? The felony murder rule (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felony_murder_rule) applies in 46 US states (as of 2008), and (at least in theory) in Canada. Ireland and the UK also previously had it, but it was eliminated in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

    I first heard of the felony murder rule 30 years or so ago, when I was in my teens–as I recall, it featured in at least several movies that I’ve seen, but I have been unable to find any citations to support this.

    1. Like many things, it’s not known by ENB.

      She’s not bright.

  8. I get and agree with your point, but this

    How to Get Charged With Murder Without Harming Anyone

    is patently wrong. The guy they were trying to rob was harmed, and something similar can be said for the other cases you cite.

    1. And note that the murder charge depends, ultimately, on willingly participating in a felony, and in this case a type of felony (robbery and battery) that is foreseeably risky to human life on both sides.

      It’s not like this is Some Dude Minding His Own Business being railroaded for murder for Actions He Had No Way Of Suspecting Were Culpable.

      Reason occasionally freaks out about FMR cases, and so far not one of the cases I’ve seen has been a miscarriage of justice.

      (I recall one a while back about “dude who loaned his car out and got an FMR charge!”

      Who, it turned out, knew that his buddies who he loaned it to were going out to commit robbery, and loaned it to them specifically to aid in that felony

      Negative sympathy.)

    2. Came to make this point. Thanks lynch.

  9. Alas, no. Adams was charged with murder under a california statute that holds accomplices accountable should partners in crime be killed on the job.

    The old common law principles that are the foundation of felony murder are not nearly this black and white; for a felony murder to be secured, there has to be a real link between the crime and the murder.

    Presumably a Mission: Impossible style crime where one partner falls off a highwire on his way to steal diamonds would qualify as a felony murder (as the dead partner is presumed to have been goaded into the insane risk without the other), but something like this seems to be overcharging. And par for the course with modern prosecutors.

    1. And for the ambulance chasers among us who actually finished law school (bless your hearts), can someone explain how the mens rea of one crime is somehow transferred to become the mens rea of an unintentional act?

      My wiki-fu has revealed the strict liability argument, but that doesn’t explain why felony murder wouldn’t be felony manslaughter instead in the event of a death that itself didn’t entail mens rea.

      1. Because statute says -effectively – that the mens rea of the original felony suffices for culpability.

        i.e. “You knew you were involved with a serious crime and that it could go wrong and get someone killed, so we’re going to consider it murder if it does.

        Because you knew or should-have-known it could happen, and that’s enough.”

  10. I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for armed robbers. I live in Oakland, CA, and hear about break-ins and car jackings and sometimes subsequent murders all the time. A high school girl at my church and her dad were just held at gunpoint and robbed recently. These are the most contemptible people there are, next to litterers and people who play their music without headphones on BART.

    1. Agreed. And even though I think the old man went too far, maybe some would-be burglars out there will think twice before breaking into someone’s home.

      1. I admit, that’s a strange case. And perhaps surviving robbers shouldn’t be charged with murder, but voluntary manslaughter seems justified if they are armed.

  11. Now Andrea Miller’s co-burglar, Gus Adams, has been arrested on murder charges for her death.

    Oh felony murder rule! How I love you!

    When Greer freely admits to chasing Miller and Adams into a back alley and shooting Miller in the back?

    In cases were self-defense is offered as a justification, this would be a big no-no. But I’m guessing the state isn’t going to charge the old guy, one, because if his advanced age, and two, the state wants him to cooperate fully in Adams’ trial.

  12. Get charged with murder for not murdering someone. Makes perfect sense in our tuffgai on crime culture.

  13. “Long Beach police say Adams and Miller beat the elderly homeowner, Tom Greer, with their fists and body slammed him to the ground after he walked in on them mid-act.”

    They beat up an 80-year old man?!

    The emotional part of me wishes they’d crucify this guy, slather him in honey, and cover him with ants.

    It’s a good thing justice isn’t a popularity contest.

    From the link:

    “In his taped interview with the station, he said the woman shouted, “Don’t shoot me! I’m pregnant — I’m going to have a baby.”

    “I shot her anyway,” Greer said. “The lady didn’t run as fast as the man so I shot her in the back twice –she’s dead ? but he got away.”

    I know that when you get old, you stop giving a flying… But dude really shouldn’t say stuff like that to the cops.

    If the robber he shot had been black, after saying something like that, he’d be spending the rest of his life in jail–no question about it.

    I doubt they’d even consider prosecuting the victim if he had just asked for a lawyer and taken the Fifth.

    That being said, if you want to avoid getting shot because you’re burglarizing people’s houses and beating the shit out of them when they come home? There’s an easy way to avoid that.

  14. I find the case of the homeowner much more interesting.

    These “pursuit” cases where the attackers break off their attack but are shot by the victim during a counterattack always intrigue me.

    I tend to think that once you are being assaulted, you should be entitled to continue defensive violence until you can be reasonably sure that the threat is neutralized. For example, if you’re in a shootout with a home invader, and the guy runs behind a brick wall, it would be (to me) reasonable to conclude that it was possible he was just reloading so he could attack again. I would not consider it murder if you pursued the guy to the other side of the wall and shot him.

    I know this is problematic, though, because of the question of how far the latitude for the attacked party extends. Can you chase the guy in your car? I guess not.

    1. until you can be reasonably sure that the threat is neutralized.

      Oh, I guess I should have specified that a lot of the traditional self-defense law tests would fail this standard.

      As another example: if you’re attacked, and you gain the upper hand, but the other guy is still conscious – fuck it, you can keep hitting him until he passes out. As long as he’s conscious if you stop hitting him for even one second he can get up and start kicking your ass again.

      1. As another example: if you’re attacked, and you gain the upper hand, but the other guy is still conscious – fuck it, you can keep hitting him until he passes out. As long as he’s conscious if you stop hitting him for even one second he can get up and start kicking your ass again.

        You’ve never been in a serious fight, have you? 95% of the time when someone goes unconscious in a fist fight, it’s for a second or two, max. Then they start fighting again.

        There are a ton of murders every year by people who just wanted to knock someone out and ended up killing them. It ain’t like Gilligan’s Island where you get one bump and you’re out for 3 hours. You usually have to beat someone right up to the edge of death or coma to incapacitate them that way.

        Break some bones and then get the fuck out, or kill them. Those are the choices in unarmed combat. Beating someone unconscious requires too much luck to depend on.

    2. if you’re in a shootout with a home invader, and the guy runs behind a brick wall, it would be (to me) reasonable to conclude that it was possible he was just reloading so he could attack again. I would not consider it murder if you pursued the guy to the other side of the wall and shot him.

      Wouldn’t it also be reasonable to conclude he is running away and hold your ground? If he were still on your property, the case could be made that he was going to attack again and I would not think charges would be warranted.

      The pursuit gives me the most trouble as it seems in this case they were fleeing. If this is the case, the old man should be charged, not the accomplice.

    3. To my thinking, it isn’t a matter of law so much as it’s question of how the jury is going to react.

      “In his taped interview with the station, he said the woman shouted, “Don’t shoot me! I’m pregnant — I’m going to have a baby.”

      “I shot her anyway,” Greer said. “The lady didn’t run as fast as the man so I shot her in the back twice –she’s dead ? but he got away.”

      Juries are like a box of chocolates, but if they prosecute the victim, the jury isn’t going to like hearing that.

      I think of myself as being more rational than your average bear, and even after hearing that they beat up an 80 year-old man, I lost a lot of sympathy for the guy after I read that statement.

      1. Yeah, that sounds like it’s not self defense anymore.

        Doesn’t really change the FMR offense, since the robbery and battery were themselves felonies, but it looks more like everyone involved is in legal trouble.

        (Shooting someone who’s running might be okay if they have a firearm and you think they’re just looking for cover.

        But since the robbers here seem to have been without ranged weapons, and seemed to be simply fleeing, that’s … just not self defense anymore.)

    4. Yeah, I there can be a lot of gray area in these cases. My default position is to give the victim the benefit of the doubt, seeing as how the original aggressors are the ones that initiated. A lot depends on state of mind, which is of course extremely difficult to ascertain. The statements this guy made after the fact, though, seem to probably push it beyond self-defense.

      1. The statements this guy made after the fact, though, seem to probably push it beyond self-defense.

        This is going to cause problems as well.

        Greer told KNBC he chased the pair and shot Miller twice in the back in the alley, then pulled her body back onto his lot.

        1. Yeah.

          But what kind of 80 year old has the fortitude to take a beating, grab his gun, run down a couple of younger people, and then drag a dead body some distance?

          1. But what kind of 80 year old has the fortitude to take a beating, grab his gun, run down a couple of younger people, and then drag a dead body some distance?

            A hard-ass motherfucker, that’s what kind.

            As far as I’m concerned, the bitch got what she deserved. Breaking into a home and beating up the elderly man living there is about as reprehensible as it gets, and the world became a slightly better place when he punched her ticket.

            My guess is the only hope they have for a conviction is if she turns out to have been pregnant. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were waiting to hear back from the medical examiner before seeking an indictment.

            I think the old man walks, as well he should.

        2. With a broken collar bone? Holy shit!

          That’s badass and immoral at the same time. I both pity and respect this man.

          1. Yeah, it’s like they were robbing an old man’s house, but when the old man came home, he turned out to be Unbreakable/Chuck Norris.

    5. I tend to think that once you are being assaulted, you should be entitled to continue defensive violence until you can be reasonably sure that the threat is neutralized.

      The fact that this took place in a residence means that castle doctrine reasoning would apply, which is a much more lenient standard than what might be applied in a bar brawl. You don’t have to assault or threaten someone after breaking into their home to justify the homeowner using deadly force against you, as breaking into someone’s home is already presenting a massive threat to that person’s safety. Further, the homeowner has no responsibility to take the time to determine your intent, which is clearly aggressive to a court.

      Apparently California doesn’t extend castle doctrine protections to curtilage, so the CA prosecutors could charge the old man if they were feeling squirrelly.

  15. I’m not sure how to react.

    On the one hand, I don’t want to seem to diminish the woman’s responsibility by charging her confederate with her death, when they both went into this robbery.

    Wow, I tried to formulate an argument on the other side, but couldn’t do so. Maybe this is a bad thing to charge people with.

    1. =)

      Right? I can’t come up with any justification that isn’t merely punitive on the state’s part

      1. The point of the state charging for crimes is to be punitive, right?

        I fail to see that as the issue.

        The issue is, does he have any responsibility for the death of his partner in crime. And I think, yeah, he has as much as any accomplice who doesnt literally pull the trigger.

        If two people kidnap someone and A pulls the trigger and shoots the victim, B still gets charged with murder too. I dont see the difference.

        1. Well, not just punitive.

          (I submit that the FMR should at least in principle have some deterrent effect, since it makes any “simple” robbery into a potential murder charge, if things get out of hand.

          Likewise it incentivizes every participant to keep “enthusiastic” accomplices in line to keep everyone out of a murder charge.)

          I also don’t share ENB’s evident belief that punitive motives are somehow illegitimate.

          That assumption gets thrown around a lot, but it’s never convinced me – and I say this as a Philosophy graduate who’s gone over the common arguments from both sides in a “professional” context, not someone just reflexively dismissing what doesn’t match my moral intuitions.

          1. Deterrent effect is just a side effect.

            You can deter future crimes by punishing an innocent man, as long as people think he is guilty. But I hope that never (or hasnt already) become a motivating factor.

            Punishment is the reason for punishment. Not deterrence, not rehabilitation. both are secondary at best.

  16. California also has a law (the Watson Rule) which allows drunk drivers to be charged with murder if a death results from an accident while they’re impaired–especially if the driver had a previous DUI conviction. While I have no sympathy for anyone who drives drunk and kills someone, the crime lacks a sufficient level of premeditation. And I’ve heard of a few cases where someone was driving over the legal limit (but obeying all traffic rules) and was struck by a sober driver who killed the drunk driver’s passenger–and the drunk driver was charged with the murder, even though they weren’t at fault. Insane.

  17. In other California news:

    Stranger leaves creepy porcelain ‘daughter’ dolls outside homes

    “There will be no further investigation of this case.”

    Now, *here*, it’s all about the intentions.

  18. Supposing instead of a dead accomplice, we had a dead homeowner.

    Should both criminals have been charged with murder, assuming only one of them pulled the trigger? Lets pretend for a moment that the accomplice only participated in the burglary but did not assault the homeowner physically.

    1. As a rule of thumb, I think I’d say no. Though one may be able to think up some exceptional cases where it would make sense.

    2. I think it depends on intent.

      If the intent was to kill the homeowner from the beginning, then why shouldn’t the accomplice be tried for murder?

      It’s like driving the getaway car in a bank robbery. If you intended to help someone rob a bank, you’re not just innocently driving a car. You’re robbing a bank.

  19. The justice system is supposed to be a process-control system. You commit a bad act; the police figure out who-dun-it; the prosecutor puts your in jail. So long as the system works well, there is supposed to be a deterrent factor to keep people from committing bad acts.

    But the system doesn’t work. The chances of getting caught are very, very low. So the lawmakers have turned it into a lottery of sorts. If you do get caught, we’ll make the consequences so terrible that it deter people that know they probably won’t get caught.

    The idea that a bad actor gets charged with murder because the victim fought back and the accomplice was killed is bullshit.

    1. # So long as the system works well, there is supposed to be a deterrent factor to keep people from committing bad acts.

      Laws aren’t about keeping people from committing bad acts, they’re about creating criminals, and thereby a justification to punish.

  20. Um, beating someone as part of a robbery (from the linked article: “Police confirmed that the intruders beat Greer with their fists, body slammed him to the ground and tried to break into his safe”) is now considered to be acting “without harming anyone” here on Reason?

    1. A little reading comprehension goes a long way, pal. It’s true that in the chief example (among many others cited) in the article, the person charged was an active participant in the assault that directly preceded the shooting of one of the assailants, but the other examples furnished by ENB and the language of the statute make clear that that is not a necessary condition of being charged under the felony murder rule.

      In other words, there’s no support for your contention that the author believes Adams did not harm anyone.

      1. There’s no support for the phony headline, i.e.:

        “A few more recent cases:
        – broke into a home.
        – robbery.
        – robbery.
        – carjacking
        – robbery”

      2. All the other cases mentioned/linked are robberies, which is to say, violent felonies.

        I guess if you want to play around with narrow definitions, you can argue that failing in the attempt to commit a violent felony isn’t “actually” harming anyone.

      3. Other than completely bogus felonies, all felonies harm someone.

        Robbery harms someone.

        Harm doesnt require physical damage.

        1. What are you, some kind of property-rights zealot Libertarian?

          1. Thats especially funny, considering I may be the weakest supporter of property rights here.

            1. Non-troll division.

              1. Good recovery there.

                You threw yourself in with Mary, for a second.

  21. An 80-year-old Long Beach, Calif., man says he gunned down burglary suspect Andrea Miller Tuesday night as she pleaded for the life of her unborn child, reports the AP. “She says, ‘Don’t shoot me, I’m pregnant, I’m going to have a baby!’ And I shot her anyway,” Tom Greer told KNBC-TV.

    1. ‘Don’t shoot me, I’m pregnant, I’m going to have a baby!’

      Good for Tom Greer for not believing someone he already knew to be dishonest and violent.

      1. He shot her twice in the back because she was a slow runner?

        Like I said, if you want to avoid getting shot because you’re burglarizing someone’s house, there’s an easy way to avoid that.

        On the other hand, if you give interviews telling people about how you shot a pregnant woman twice in the back after she pleaded for her baby’s life? Don’t be too surprised if a jury of your peers finds you…not so sympathetic.

        And in California, you should expect to face a jury by default when you shoot someone–and juries really are like a box of chocolates.

        The Framers, in their infinite wisdom, determined that your rights are inalienable and can’t be taken away by government. …so we face a jury of our peers instead.

        It isn’t just about the law or the evidence, really. If 12 out of 12 housewives, government employees, and others who get unlimited amounts of time off of work for jury duty don’t feel sympathetic towards you, you’re going away for a long time.

        And I guess this is as it should be.

        1. Since when is a jury not part of gov’t?

    2. The autopsy of the woman indicates she was not pregnant. I was almost expecting this to be a story that the homeowner was charged with murdering a fetus ? a fetus that didn’t exist, but that he thought did exist

  22. The headline is a half-lie: How to Get Charged With Murder Without Harming Anyone.

    The two dirtbags here were causing harm to a homeowner by invading and robbing his home. How hard is it to understand that this is harm?

    And as far as the upgraded charge: It helps further the libertarian principle that actions have consequences. When you rob someone, things can spiral out of control and people can end up dead.

  23. How to Get Charged With Murder Without Harming Anyone

    You shouldn’t lie in a headline.

    Scummy burglars ending up dead makes me happy.

  24. You know what else I just realized? Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. WTF?

  25. This is based on a well established legal theory that “he took his victim as he found him” or the “eggshell skull defendant.” If you do something you didn’t have a right to do, then you may often be held accountable for the results – even if they are far worse than you realized.

    In tort, if you kick somebody to annoy them (a wrongful act, if minor) but they have an especially weak bone structure (akin to an ‘eggshell’) and you cause enormous damage, this principle holds the actor responsible rather than the victim. In criminal law, if you undertake criminal acts and somebody dies as a result, in many cases that counts as your fault.

    It makes sense to allocate fault to perpetrators rather than blameless victims (particularly in tort). Even if the perpetrator couldn’t anticipate it, why should the victim hold the burden to anticipate all wrongful acts by others? The perpetrator could avoid it and the victim is blameless. The application here is a little silly, since the victim is not blameless. As a co-robber, she should be allocated her share of blame. This application just seems punitive to the surviving robber.

    1. All of which makes sense, but why is this considered capital murder rather than something like manslaughter? Clearly the mens rea for kicking/battering someone, even just to annoy them, is there, but not for killing them. Isn’t that the chief distinction between murder and manslaughter?

      1. why is this considered capital murder

        The mens rea exists from the serious felony. Robbing someone in their home has a reasonable expectation for resulting in possible death.

        Roll the dice, pay the price.

    2. This is ancient common law – the Redline rule has been abolished in some states – but this has been the law of felony murder for centuries (note that the UK abolished it in the 50s)

  26. Tom Greer is a stone-cold gangsta.

  27. Here in AZ a few years ago, we had an interesting case with this law. Some guy was leading the police on a car chase across the city and some local news helicopters were flying around to cover the chase. Unfortunately, one of the pilots didn’t see one of the other helicopters and crashed into it, causing both helicopters to come crashing down and killing all occupants of both. I don’t know if they succeeded or not, but the police planned to add multiple counts of murder to the guy leading the chase for the helicopter occupants.

    This really struck me as a stretch. What’s the limit of other tangentially related events that can be tacked on? If some people watching the news were very distraught by the helicopter crashes and suffered heart attacks, should the criminal be charged with murder for their deaths as well? If not, why not?

  28. It’s called Felony Murder, and it’s been around for a long, long time.
    Commit a felony, and if anyone dies, the perps all get charged for FM under the reasoning that absent the initial crime, the death would not have occurred.

  29. Felony murder is a mystery to you? What the hell did you do in school?

    Holy shit, ENB, between this and your wide-eyed awe at the existence of sexual harassment training materials, one wonders whether you’ve ever left the house.

  30. So when the cops shoot someone you’re jaywalking with, it’s *your* fault.

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