In Georgia a person will be convicted of felony murder in this State “when, in the commission of a felony, he causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice.” In determining whether a felony meets that definition, the Court will tell the jury to consider the circumstances under which the felony was committed. Further, there must be some connection between the felony and the homicide.
Here is a breakdown of the felony murder statute and the elements the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
- In the commission of a felony
The homicide must have been done in carrying out the unlawful act and not collateral (accompanying but secondary) to it. It is not enough that the homicide occurred before or after the felony was attempted or committed.
The only limitation on the type of felony that may serve as an underlying felony for a felony murder conviction is that the felony must be inherently dangerous to human life.
For a felony to be considered inherently dangerous, it must be “dangerous per se” or it must “by its circumstances create a foreseeable risk of death.”
The reason for the felony murder rule is to furnish an added deterrent to the perpetration of felonies, which create a foreseeable risk of death. This function is not served by application of the rule to felonies not foreseeably dangerous.
Some common crimes that qualify for felony murder include:
- Aggravated assault
- Armed robbery
- Firearms offenses; in some cases possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
- Narcotics offenses or VGCSA – including sale of drugs
- Party to a crime
- Sexual assault
- Causes the death of another person.
The person charged must directly cause the death of the victim to be convicted of felony murder. For example, a defendant may be convicted of felony murder based on the underlying felony of distributing a controlled substance if the defendant directly causes the death of the victim while in the commission of the felony.
- You do not need malice.
There are two types of Malice. A specific intent to kill is “express malice,” whereas an intent to commit acts with such a reckless disregard for human life as to show an abandoned and malignant heart amounts to “implied malice.”
Malice is where the actor acted deliberately knowing his conduct was dangerous or reckless and he was not concerned as to whether anyone was harmed or not. So what is less than malice? Can the action be as low as gross negligence or even less than negligence?