Legal-Ease: Guilt by association and felony murder


LEGAL-EASE

By Lee R. Schroeder - Guest Columnist



Lee R. Schroeder

Lee R. Schroeder


In school and school athletics, people of my generation who did nothing wrong were often punished or otherwise treated the same as other people who actually made mistakes. For example, in junior high basketball, if one of our teammates did something wrong, we were all required to run extra laps around the gym at the next practice. Only one person made the mistake, but others associated with that person were punished.

There were perhaps two reasons why the entire basketball team was “guilty by association.” First, I am sure we became more positively encouraging of each other. Essentially, we became “our brothers’ keeper” just to save our own skin.

Second, guilt by association avoided excuses that attempted to spread the responsibility for the mistake. For instance, it is not uncommon for people to say that person 1 thought up the idea of doing something wrong. Person 2 figured out the literal method of carrying out the wrong act. Person 3 purchased supplies to assist in the wrong act. Person 4 drove a vehicle to the location of the wrong act. And, finally person 5 actually did the wrong act.

In the legal world, much of the time, the issue of whether everyone involved in a crime are just as guilty as the “trigger man” involves a mentally intricate analysis, even in simple situations. Ohio has many laws on accomplice liability, but in the context of murder, guilt by association is often addressed by a legal concept called “felony murder.”

Our region dealt with a trial recently that involved an unfortunate situation where a former Lima businessman died. In that trial, a person who did not shoot the gun that killed the businessman was found guilty of murder. The facts in that trial can help explain the detailed requirements of felony murder liability.

To be guilty of murder in Ohio, a person usually must act intentionally, which Ohio law defines as “purposely.” In other words, murder requires that someone was killed on purpose. “Death on purpose” contrasts with the requirements for other homicides. Illustratively, voluntary manslaughter generally results from a “fit of rage” brought on by the victim.

However, if someone commits or attempts to commit a first- or second-degree violent felony (and violent felonies are defined in the law) and someone dies while that violent felony is being committed, that person who committed the violent felony can be found guilty of murder.

As explained above, murder generally requires purposeful or intentional death. In situations of felony murder, the person committing the violent felony usually did not “intend” to kill anyone. Nonetheless, the person committing the violent felony did intend to commit a violent felony. The law essentially allows the intention/purposefulness to commit a violent felony to be interpreted as an intention to kill, even though there was no literal intention to kill.

The law justifies the re-direction of intention/purpose, because it is foreseeable that someone could be seriously injured or killed while committing violent felonies, which are literally defined as “violent.”

Lee R. Schroeder
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/07/web1_Schroeder-Lee-RGB-4.jpgLee R. Schroeder
LEGAL-EASE

By Lee R. Schroeder

Guest Columnist

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

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