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Is He Guilty of Felony Murder? Your THOUGHTS? *Edited to include Robbery Statute*

Posted by on Jun. 26, 2010 at 9:58 AM
  • 27 Replies

Murder Charge in Nun's Death May Test Law

By JOHN ELIGON and KAREN ZRAICK

 The decision by Manhattan prosecutors to charge an 18-year-old man with felony murder in a hit-and-run crash that killed a nun in Harlem represents a novel approach that could test the state's felony murder statute, legal experts said.

The man, William Robbins, had committed a string of gunpoint robberies early Tuesday with his friend Dyson Williams, 20, when the police pulled over the Chrysler Pacifica they were in, according to a criminal court complaint. Mr. Robbins, who was driving, complied with police orders to get out, but Mr. Williams got behind the wheel and sped off, the complaint said.

Mr. Williams crashed the car into another vehicle and a group of people, killing Sister Mary Celine Graham, 83, according to the complaint.

Mr. Robbins and Mr. Williams have been charged with felony murder under a provision in state law in which a person can be charged with murder if someone else is killed during the commission of a separate felony - in this case, robbery.

While legal experts said the case against Mr. Williams fit snugly within the definition of felony murder - prosecutors contend that he was fleeing after a robbery and that his actions directly caused Sister Mary Celine's death - the case against Mr. Robbins is more complicated.

For one thing, experts said, Mr. Robbins did what one is supposed to do when confronted by the police: He complied.

"When one person surrenders and the other person does the opposite, they're no longer acting in concert," said Brian D. Linder, a partner at the law firm Clayman & Rosenberg who specializes in criminal defense. "You should be treated differently than someone who tears off and kills someone in the escape."

Because Mr. Robbins did not commit the act that killed Sister Mary Celine, he could raise an affirmative defense, meaning he could be relieved of criminal responsibility if he proved certain facts, said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University.

Among other things, Mr. Robbins would have to prove that he did not have a deadly weapon, and that he did not have reason to believe that Mr. Williams had one, Mr. Gillers said. That claim might be hard to make because, according to the criminal complaint, witnesses said both men had guns during the robberies.

But Sister Mary Celine was not killed by a gun, raising a question that the law remains unclear on. Mr. Gillers wrote in an e-mail message, "Is Robbins legally and morally guilty of felony murder if the cause of death was not the weapon he or Williams allegedly had but another cause that he would not have foreseen?"

Mr. Gillers said he believed that the letter of the law would suggest that Mr. Robbins was legally responsible for the death.

Mr. Robbins's lawyer, Mark J. Heller, said charging his client with felony murder was "an extreme case of overkill."

Here is the law regarding Felony Murder (125.25 Subd vii):

(vii) the victim was killed while the defendant was in the course of
committing or attempting to commit and in furtherance of robbery,
burglary in the first degree or second degree, kidnapping in the first degree, arson in the first degree or second degree, rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree, sexual abuse in the first degree, aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree or escape in the first degree, or in the course of and furtherance of immediate flight after committing or attempting to commit any such crime or in the course of and furtherance of immediate flight after attempting to commit the crime of murder in the second degree; provided however, the victim is not a participant in one of the aforementioned crimes and, provided further that, unless the defendant`s criminal liability under this subparagraph is based upon the defendant having commanded another person to cause the death of the victim or intended victim pursuant to section 20.00 of this chapter, this subparagraph shall not apply where the defendant`s criminal liability is based upon the conduct of another pursuant to section 20.00 of this chapter...

Section 20.00:

S 20.00 Criminal liability for conduct of another.
  When one person engages in conduct which constitutes an offense, another person is criminally liable for such conduct when, acting with the mental culpability required for the commission thereof, he solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or intentionally aids such person to engage in such conduct.

 

Quote:

Robbery in the first degree.
  A person is guilty of robbery in the first degree when he forcibly
steals property and when, in the course of the commission of the crime
or of immediate flight therefrom
, he or another participant in the
crime:
  1. Causes serious physical injury to any person who is not a
participant in the crime; or
  2. Is armed with a deadly weapon; or
  3. Uses or threatens the immediate use of a dangerous instrument; or
  4. Displays what appears to be a pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun,
machine gun or other firearm; except that in any prosecution under this
subdivision, it is an affirmative defense that such pistol, revolver,
rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm was not a loaded weapon
from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or other serious
physical injury, could be discharged. Nothing contained in this
subdivision shall constitute a defense to a prosecution for, or preclude
a conviction of, robbery in the second degree, robbery in the third
degree or any other crime.
  Robbery in the first degree is a class B felony.
by on Jun. 26, 2010 at 9:58 AM
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Replies (1-10):
muslimah
by on Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:03 AM

I think he should be charged according to all offences robbery and fleeing but as with the case of the murder (keep in mind that I am not an attorney) I would think manslaughter would be more appropriate if not involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide being that he did not pre-meditate or set out to kill someone but someone did happen to end up dead due to his negligence. 

JoshiRachelsMom
by on Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:08 AM

 

Quoting muslimah:

I think he should be charged according to all offences robbery and fleeing but as with the case of the murder (keep in mind that I am not an attorney) I would think manslaughter would be more appropriate if not involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide being that he did not pre-meditate or set out to kill someone but someone did happen to end up dead due to his negligence. 

 Yes but the law that I provided states that if an innocent person is killed as a result of someone fleeing from a crime such as robbery et. al... then it's basically the same as pulling the trigger yourself....

denise3680
by Platinum Member on Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:20 AM

I do not think he should be charged with murder, man lsaughter or anything that has to do with the killing of the nun.  He got out and surrendered to police, he was not in the car nor did he have anything to do with it.  the other guy was the one that fled from police and his actions alone, contributed/caused the accident and death of the nun.

denise3680
by Platinum Member on Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:23 AM


Quoting JoshiRachelsMom:

 

Quoting muslimah:

I think he should be charged according to all offences robbery and fleeing but as with the case of the murder (keep in mind that I am not an attorney) I would think manslaughter would be more appropriate if not involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide being that he did not pre-meditate or set out to kill someone but someone did happen to end up dead due to his negligence. 

 Yes but the law that I provided states that if an innocent person is killed as a result of someone fleeing from a crime such as robbery et. al... then it's basically the same as pulling the trigger yourself....

that is true, but they fled from the robberies but were caught, stopped and  Mr. Robbins exited the car, so that part was over.  This is a second offense Mr. Williams started by fleeing from the police and causing the accident on his own accord.

hard_hat_mommie
by Bronze Member on Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:27 AM

i think if you are doing something illegal and using a vehicle to do it, or to scat, YES you should be held accountable for murder.

if he were drinking wouldn't he be?

hang on. i need coffee. i missed something

 

 

heidi37217
by Member on Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:28 AM

This is what I think.

Quoting denise3680:

I do not think he should be charged with murder, man lsaughter or anything that has to do with the killing of the nun.  He got out and surrendered to police, he was not in the car nor did he have anything to do with it.  the other guy was the one that fled from police and his actions alone, contributed/caused the accident and death of the nun.


carterscutie85
by Bronze Member on Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:30 AM

No. Mr. Williams fled and hit the car with the nun and killed her. Mr. Robbins is certainly guilty of other things, but his actions did not cause the nun's death so he should not be charged with it.

denise3680
by Platinum Member on Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:32 AM


Quoting hard_hat_mommie:

i think if you are doing something illegal and using a vehicle to do it, or to scat, YES you should be held accountable for murder.

if he were drinking wouldn't he be?

 


but he got out of the car and surrendered to police.  the passenger got into the drivers seat, and ran from police causing the accident.  Mr. Robbins was not in the car.

Say you were in the car, the person driving had just robbed a store, you did not know that, you get pulled over by cops, do you think you should go to jail for something this person did or had no control over?  Same scenerio.

hard_hat_mommie
by Bronze Member on Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:33 AM

yes, i think he should be charged. 

hard_hat_mommie
by Bronze Member on Jun. 26, 2010 at 10:34 AM

had he dropped his gun and it went off and accidentally shot a pedestrian, he would be responsible.

after all, he brought the gun and if it was loaded, it was intented to kill.

the car was intended to escape, but result was the same.

Quoting denise3680:

 

Quoting hard_hat_mommie:

i think if you are doing something illegal and using a vehicle to do it, or to scat, YES you should be held accountable for murder.

if he were drinking wouldn't he be?

 


but he got out of the car and surrendered to police.  the passenger got into the drivers seat, and ran from police causing the accident.  Mr. Robbins was not in the car.

Say you were in the car, the person driving had just robbed a store, you did not know that, you get pulled over by cops, do you think you should go to jail for something this person did or had no control over?  Same scenerio.

 

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