Do you think it is fair for someone charged with felony murder to have the same punishment as a person charged with murder? Why or why not?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is purely a matter of personal opinion, but I do find this to be a fair consequence for the person charged with felony murder.  A person who is committing a felony that could reasonably result in someone's death is engaging in an activity that puts the lives of others at risk and should bear the consequences of having engaged in that risky behavior if a death does occur. I do not see a different level of moral culpability here.  If I take a gun with me as I rob a bank, I can surely see that someone could get killed. I do not distinguish that in my own mind with killing a particular person with that gun without any accompanying felony. 

Some may argue this is a question of intent, that we do not punish people for crimes they did not intend to commit.  But if I bring a gun to that bank robbery, it is difficult for me to say that I had no intent whatsoever to use that gun. If that were the case, I wouldn't have brought it in the first place. Generally speaking, felony murders are not as long a sentence as what we call first degree murders, where we punish people for their premeditation, as opposed to murders that occur without allowing us the opportunity to reconsider our actions, manslaughter charges, for example.

But our duty under the law, both civil and criminal, is to behave in a way that will reasonably ensure that others are not harmed by our actions.  If I engage in a felony that a reasonable person understands could result in someone's death, I think I am responsible for that death and should be punished accordingly.