Charles Grodin doesn’t like the felony murder rule.
The felony murder rule, which essentially holds that anyone who is proven to have been involved with a felony during which someone was killed is guilty of First Degree Murder, is one of the harsher devices in American jurisprudence. I must confess, I sort of like it, and always have. Like all laws, however, it doesn’t work perfectly all the time.
The reason I like the rule is that it acknowledges the real danger of initiating felonies, crimes that are serious and destructive. If you burn a business down to collect the insurance, for example, you should be held responsible by the law if the fire gets out of control and someone is killed. The law combines criminal and civil offenses; the felony murder rule is like a negligent crime principle. It is a law that implicitly understands Chaos Theory at a basic level: actions often have unpredictable consequences, and even if the consequences are worse than you expected or could have expected, you still are accountable for putting dangerous and perhaps deadly forces in motion. If you commit a felony, you better make damn sure you know what you are doing, because if people get killed, you will be held to a doubly harsh standard. Better yet, don’t commit the crime. Continue reading