In The News

In The News

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Felony Murder is Still a Homicide Punishable Just as Harshly as First Degree Murder

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Michael J. Nichols

There have been a number of cases in the news in America of late, in which felony murder was a major component of the prosecutor's theory of charging or it was at least an alternative theory. Mike Nichols recently handled a felony murder case in Isabella County (Mt. Pleasant). It is a fundamental concept of criminal law, that a lot of people misunderstand or are not familiar with it.

Felony Murder is a theory of seeking to find someone guilty of first degree murder - in other words life without parole in most every state including Michigan, for being involved a crime that is so inherently dangerous that a person is just as guilty as a person who planned the death of another and then carried that death out.

In Mike's case, it is the classic "law school" example: a group of young men plotted a robbery of someone, who was known to be a marijuana dealer, who had marijuana and money in his apartment off-campus near Central Michigan University (CMU). They recruited one of the members of the conspiracy to bring a gun. They did not plan to use the gun or harm the target, but when they went inside the apartment, the target lunged at the first person to enter and that was the person with the gun.

A struggle ensued, shots were fired and the target was killed. All 4 members of the "conspiracy" were charged with over 10 different crimes including open murder. Is that fair? This debate has literally raged for centuries and it dates back to the English Common Law. Remember, there was a time that our civilization was learning how to live under a rule of law without a "legislature" to specifically pass laws that decreed what was illegal and what the penalties were for illegal conduct.

The idea is that there are some crimes, which are so inherently dangerous that if death results, the participants in the crime are deemed to be "on the hook" for the same punishment as if they planned a death. A legal commentator named "Hawkins" conjured this concept in the 18th century. William Hawkins attempted to distinguish between crimes that arose during basic fights or assaults and deaths that arose during the commission of felonies. Legal commentators were like scholarly "talking heads" of days gone past when our societies and civilizations were trying to develop laws and punishments before actual legislatures were elected and started passing laws with punishments - also known as the "penal code."

In the Nichols Law Firm's recent case, the client cooperated and resolved the case by entering into a guilty plea for unarmed robbery. Thanks to strategy developed through decades of experience of reading reports, analyzing forensic evidence and understanding the dynamics of multi-defendant cases, a young man will be eligible for parole in May, 2025 instead of spending life in prison. That is what it means to be committed to results.

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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.