When a person commits a felony, he or she is on the hook not only for that crime but also for any other crime that happens during the commission of the felony. A recent case out of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals is a good example of how a simple burglary became a murder conviction for someone who never entered the home where the killing occurred.
A defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for his role in a Fort Lauderdale home robbery in which the home owner died. A neighbor heard gun shots, saw a car drive off, and found the home owner dead inside the home. Another neighbor had a video surveillance system that taped a pair of men getting out of one car and into another. The tape also showed one of the men inside the car putting on gloves and picked up the sound of gun shots less than five minutes after the car left the surveillance area.
A police officer who observed the video later pulled over a car matching the one in the video and driven by the defendant, who matched the description of a man wearing Adidas shorts in the video. They later tracked down the second car and, after obtaining search warrants, found the victim’s blood in both cars. At trial, one of the men who said he was involved in the burglary said the defendant and another man watched for police, while two other men checked to see if anyone was in the home before breaking in. They rang the doorbell, and there was a struggle with the home owner, during which he was shot, according to the testimony.
The defendant argued that he was on the scene simply to sell marijuana and give one of the men a ride home. He said he knew nothing about the planned home invasion. The jury was instructed that if the defendant helped the others commit a crime, he was responsible for all of the things the other people did, even if he wasn’t there. The court also informed the jury that the defendant could potentially be convicted of murder if the killing was premeditated or if it happened during the commission of another felony.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the jury shouldn’t have been instructed on premeditation because there was no evidence that the shooting was planned. The Fourth District disagreed. “The evidence strongly supported first-degree murder based on the felony murder rule,” the court said. “And although the evidence of premeditation was weaker, premeditation was not a legally inadequate or an unconstitutional theory of first-degree murder.”
If you or a loved one has been charged with burglary or a related crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced defense lawyer. Clearwater criminal defense attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of crimes. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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