Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Birdsong on the History of the Felony-Murder Rule

Leonard Birdsong, Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, has posted Felony Murder: A Historical Perspective by Which to Understand Today's Modern Felony Murder Rule Statutes, which appeared in the Thurgood Marshall Law Review 30 (2006).  Here is the abstract:
The law of felony murder varies from state to state and deterrence is often cited as a justification for the doctrine. The doctrine persists because our legal notion of punishment requires proportionality, and proportionality requires grading. Therefore, felony murder draws a higher punishment for a killing that takes place during the commission of an unlawful act.

This article examines the development of the felony murder rule in the United States and explores its historic origins and its development in a number of U.S. jurisdictions. Part II of this article provides a history of the felony murder doctrine in England. Part III examines how the doctrine came to the United States and has been utilized in more expansive ways than envisioned in England. The article concludes by comparing a representative sample of modem day American felony murder statutes against the historical felony murder doctrine formulated by the early English commentators.