Felony Murder- Federal


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Federal Murder- 18 U.S.C. 1111

In order to sustain its burden of proof for the crime of felony murder as charged in the indictment, the government must prove the following four (4) essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) the Accused killed a person; (2) the Accused killed a person with malice aforethought; (3) the killing was committed in the perpetration of or in an attempt to perpetrate arson, escape, murder, kidnapping, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse, burglary, or robbery; and (4) the Accused killed a person named within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

The federal murder statute's definition of felony murder does not require the government to prove any intent other than that the killing was committed in the course of the underlying felony.  Therefore once the government has shown that the Accused intended to commit the felony and that a killing occurred in the course of that felony, no additional proof of state of mind is necessary.

The term “malice aforethought” means either to kill another person deliberately and intentionally or to act with callous and wanton disregard for human life.

A killing is done with malice aforethought if it is deliberate and intentional or if it results from the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate a robbery.

Proof of the existence of malice does not require a showing that the accused harbored hatred or ill will against the victim or others.  Neither does it require proof of an intent to kill or injure.  Malice may be established by evidence of conduct which is reckless and wanton and a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of care, of such a nature that a jury is warranted in inferring that the Accused was aware of a serious risk of death or serious bodily harm.”

The word “premeditation” means with planning or deliberation. The passage of time is a factor that may be considered in attempting to determine if a defendant acted with “premeditation. The amount of time needed for premeditation of a killing can depend on the person and the circumstances. The time must be long enough after forming the intent to kill, however, for the killer to have been fully conscious of the intent and to have considered the killing.

The law permits the jury to determine whether the government has proven the guilt of a defendant for any less serious offense that is, by its very nature, necessarily included in the crime of felony murder.

Self-defense may be a defense to felony murder.  Use of force is justified when a person reasonably believes that it is necessary for the defense of oneself or another against the immediate use of unlawful force. A person acting in self-defense, however, must use no more force that appears reasonably necessary under all of the circumstances.

Force likely to cause death or great bodily harm is justified in self-defense only if a person reasonably believes that such force is necessary in order to prevent death or great bodily harm.

The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Accused did not act in self-defense.

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