A Palm Beach man was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison even though he didn’t physically kill anybody.
A Palm Beach Circuit Court judge sentenced the accused after being convicted by a jury of burglary and felony murder.
According to facts at trial, the defendant and a friend were running away from an apartment they had just broken into. The occupant of the apartment was chasing down the defendant and his friend in his car and ran over the defendant’s friend, killing him.
Under Florida’s felony murder law, you can be charged with murder if a co-defendant dies during the commission of a felony, even if you had nothing to do with the physical death.
The rationale behind the law is that if you choose to commit a felony then you are responsible for all attendant consequences, even those that were not intended or even foreseen.
Florida’s jury instruction on felony murder states that the “victim (co-defendant) was killed by a person other than the defendant, but both the defendant and the person who killed the victim were principals in the commission of a felony.”
This instruction permits the jury to convict a person of murder even if they took no deliberate action that caused the death of another person.
Eric Matheny is a Miami and Broward criminal defense attorney.