Alarico Medina - Victim of the felony murder doctrine
Alerico Medina and wife Aislinn Nygaard.
The rule of felony murder is a legal doctrine in some common law jurisdictions that broadens the crime of murder: when an offender kills (regardless of intent to kill) in the commission of a dangerous or enumerated crime (called a felony in some jurisdictions), he/she is guilty of murder.
But a person does not have to commit the murder, or even cause harm to be convicted and have their lives taken. That is what makes felony murder the most heinous piece of legislation in American history and still on the books to be abused today.
Under the felony-murder rule, a defendant does not have to intend to kill anyone, nor commit the homicidal act, to be sentenced to first-degree murder; It is fundamentally unfair and in violation of basic principles of individual criminal culpability to hold one felon liable for the unforeseen results of another felon’s action, especially when such conduct was not agreed upon or intention known in advance.
Most of the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood are legally granted by the age of 18. That's when you can vote, enlist in the military, move out on your own, but is that the true age of maturity? A growing body of science says, no. That critical parts of the brain involved in decision-making are not fully developed until years later at age 25 or so. The fact that our brains aren’t developed until the mid 20s means that “legal adults” (those age 18+) are allowed to make adult decisions, without fully mature brains. Someone who is 18 may make riskier decisions than someone in their mid-20s in part due to lack of experience, but primarily due to an underdeveloped brain. All behaviors and experiences you endure until the age of 25 have potential to impact your developing brain.
Can you imagine being 18 and engaging in what you believe is to be a confrontation, possibly even a fight and then suddenly you find yourself responsible for the choices and actions of someone else without the time or ability to stop them even if you could? That flash moment when even the worst that you could have imagined becomes so much worse and the turning point of your entire life and when something you did not know was going to happen, could not control the situation and are left in shock. And as if that is not bad enough, the rest of your life is gone in that flash because you lacked the ability and development to foresee all possible outcomes and lacked the time and ability to control the actions of others. Life without the possibility of parole. Your life is over. Life without parole is just a fancy way of putting someone to death behind bars giving no possibility for atonement or a second chance. In a flash of a moment it ends. Ask yourself. Have you ever had a situation turn out differently then you thought that it would? Do you have the ability to control everyone around you? Is it just to pay for the actions of another? Are you okay with your worst mistake being the thing that you will be judged on and pay for the rest your natural life? Welcome to felony murder. The law that says NOT planning to kill someone and not actually killing someone is worse than intentional homicide. A law that celebrates and encourages people to intentionally murder and get a much lighter sentence because NOT intending, NOT knowing, and NOT committing is, in the eyes of your laws, is far worse! Justice?
"The homicide occurred after defendant's girlfriend asked defendant to beat up the victim because she mistakenly believed the victim had raped her friend. Four men, including defendant, drove to the victim's apartment complex. Defendant and one of the men, who later testified against defendant in return for reduced charges, exited the car and went inside the complex.
Defendant knocked on the apartment door, and the victim answered. Upon identifying himself by name, the victim was shot point blank and killed.
There was no dispute that defendant and the other man were both present, and that one of them had shot the victim. There was also evidence supporting a jury finding that defendant or the other man had entered the apartment with intent to assault the victim. The identity of the shooter was hotly contested.
The other man testified that defendant shot the victim; defendant testified that the other man was the shooter. The only independent witness to the murder could not identify who shot the victim, though some aspects of his testimony lent support to defendant's claim that the other man was the shooter.
The jury's guilty verdict on the felony murder count found specifically that defendant had committed a completed burglary. Its separate burglary verdicts found defendant guilty of first degree burglary because he or a participant had committed assault and menacing and had been armed with a deadly weapon. It appears, however, the jury was not convinced defendant was the shooter. This is suggested by the jury's (1) finding that defendant did not possess a weapon, (2) note asking if defendant had to be the shooter to be convicted of murder, and (3) return of a manslaughter (not intentional murder) verdict." ~Caselaw.findlaw (read the case and you will see for yourself the many problems with the application of felony murder. It not often that we find a proper application actually and this case is no exception. Where is the justice when an unintended murder holds a harsher penalty then one intended?
As it turns out, Mr. Medina was not the shooter and further was unaware of the presence of a gun or the co-defendants intent to kill. But under the felony murder law that does not matter. Justice?
"In cases not prosecuted under a felony-murder theory, in order to convict a defendant of first-degree murder, a jury has to find beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted with intentional malice; but under the felony-murder rule, the prosecution does not have to prove that a killing was intended and need only prove that a defendant intended to commit the underlying felony or intended to commit an inherently dangerous felony. In this case ringing a door bell with intent to confront was the prosecutions idea of an inherently dangerous felony.
"In 2004 Alarico was asked to defend the honor of a girl he barely knew by his girlfriend. Being 18 and ambitious Alarico agreed. He was told this girl was raped by a man and that he was to go over and see the man. Alarico got in the car along with 3 others and drove to the apartment. When him and another walked up the stairs and rang the doorbell Alarico knew he only wanted to talk to the man and find out if it was the truth knowing that sometimes his girlfriend can exaggerate and get out of hand. He didn’t know that ringing the doorbell would change his life forever. After a push of his finger the door opened and one simple question was asked. Next thing Alarico knew was he was being pushed out of the way and loud BANG had went off. Running down the stairs and back into the vehicle he was in shock and scared. What had happened? What was he going to do?"
"Later, police officers charged in weapons drawn and Alarico was arrested. 18 years old being drug to the station, his clothes taken from him, his picture taken, his fingerprints done, and then sat in a room only for people to come in and ask him question after question. Alarico though had hope, he knew he did nothing wrong. He thought how could he get into trouble all he did was ring the doorbell. 6 weeks of trial went by and after everyone had turned on him he sat in court defeated. He wanted to start it all over he wanted to speak now and tell people what had really happened but he was too late. They were after him from the beginning. All that came from his 6 weeks was that they knew he did not shoot the man. The jury was instructed on how Felony Murder works and with them using burglary as their backing felony even though they knew he never stepped foot into the apartment they sentenced Alarico to life without a life."
"At 18 years, old he was told he was never going to have another birthday, Christmas, Easter, thanksgiving, or any other holiday with his family again. Along with this life sentence came the probability that he would never find love, have kids, or even eat a decent meal for the rest of his life. He will never know what it is like to go shopping or stand in line to pump gas, he won’t ever have to work a 9 to 5 job or pay taxes. I know people are saying lucky in a joking manner but all the little things that we take for granite like sleeping in a soft bed, or using the bathroom in privacy are things he will never get to experience. All because he rang a doorbell. Now I ask that you as readers place yourself in the shoes of the ambitious and arrogant 18-year-old that we all were at one time. What would it feel like to you? How would you feel if a simple 60 second move changed your life and stripped you of everything you had? Look around you now young and old. Look at the things you have done with your lives, the family you may have grown, the job and successes you may have achieved, the shoes you wear on your feet, your spouse’s smile, everything you hold near and dear to your heart. Now imagine none of it exists. Are you short of breath? Is your heart pounding? Can you feel the anxiety? This is what it was like. Would you be able to handle it?
It has been almost 15 years now and Alarico is 31. He has almost spent as much time behind bars as he had in the outside world and all for ringing a doorbell.
The reason I am writing this is to make the public aware of some of the laws that United States of America still has. He was sentenced to the same amount of time as those who have personally pulled the trigger and killed more than one person.
Can you tell me where is the justice in that?
People say that Justice had to be served that day. That someone had to pay for the life that was taken. I understand that justice needed to reign but true, honest, fair justice would have sentenced this man to the same terms that the shooter was sentenced to. 4 years is all the shooter did in this case. If justice was going to be served everyone else in the case should have served the same initial time as the shooter. Alarico is not looking for pity or some sort of reimbursement, he just wants the people of America to know what felony murder can really do. He wants people to realize that this sentence can take a life when the person who receives it does not have to take a life. Why would a murder get a deal and serve 4 years when a boy who knew nothing about the killing that was about to take place was told to sit in prison for the rest of his life." (Quotes from a petition on Mr. Medina's behalf, please take the time to sign it)
Burglary vs Assault
There are certain crimes that qualify as a pre-cursor to felony murder (robbery, rape, kidnapping, burglary etc. Assault is not one them because all murder's are preceded by legal assault and therefore are just murder. The legal definition of burglary is that someone enters a premises (this is important because if in an open public space there is no burglary) with the intention of committing a crime. ANY crime. Most assume that burglary means that something was stolen, quite to the contrary, nothing need be stolen. Simply entering the premises with criminal intent is burglary. Stealing something becomes robbery or theft. The bottom line is that any kind of assault is not a predicate crime to merge with felony murder yet there are so many loop holes in the law that an over zealous prosecutor can and will find a way to apply this law. Why? Because it is an automatic conviction and holds a mandatory minimum of life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty, sentences reserved for the worst of the worst crimes and the prosecutor need not prove anything other than burglary. A free slam dunk major murder conviction? Every prosecutors dream!
"In Alarico’s trial they found out he was not the shooter. They also knew he did not step foot in the house to be able to use burglary as his backing felony. They also could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew that man was going to be shot. To hold burglary as his backing felony they stated that the barrel of the shot gun had passed the threshold of the door way. The prosecutor kept saying that Alarico knew the other man had a shot gun. Over and Over it was stated without any proof. I believe that they were reaching very far to hold burglary to his sentence. To use the barrel of a gun that was not held by him and a shoe print that did not belong to him is reaching far beyond reasonable means to sentence someone to such a crime". (petition)
Mr. Medina will be returning to court for an evidentiary hearing. Will he find justice? The felony murder law goes against everything that the counties justice system was founded upon so lets hope so that the times are changing and Mr. Medina can be judged on his role, not that of another.
"Both Hawaii and Kentucky eradicated the practice by statute and Michigan abrogated the felony-murder rule through case law; and the Michigan Supreme Court noted when it abolished the felony-murder rule, “Whatever reasons can be gleaned from the dubious origin of the felony-murder rule to explain its existence, those reasons no longer exist today. Indeed, most states, including our own, have recognized the harshness and inequity of the rule as is evidenced by the numerous restrictions placed on it. The felony murder doctrine is unnecessary and in many cases unjust in that it violates the basic premise of individual moral culpability upon which our criminal law is based” (People v. Aaron (1980) 299 N.W. 2d 304);
The due process clause found in both the Fourteenth and Fifth amendments to the United States Constitution requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime in order to convict the accused. This should hold true for felony murder cases, but the doctrine of felony murder circumvents this important principle and allows for conviction and punishment to be the same as for those who committed a murder with malice aforethought.
It can be cruel and unusual punishment to not assess individual liability for nonperpetrators of the fatal act or in nonhomicide matters the criminal charge resulting in prosecution and impute culpability for another’s bad act, thereby imposing lengthy sentences that are disproportionate to the conduct in the underlying case. ~quoted from SCR-48 CA read the full text here)