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New Ruling on Felony Murder Charges

Felon-in-Possession Charge Used for Felony Murder

In a past blog we described what felony murder is in Missouri. To recap, under Missouri statutes, if an individual commits or attempts to commit any felony, and in the perpetration of that felony or in the flight from the perpetration of that felony, another person is killed as a result, that individual can be charged with murder in the second degree.The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District recently heard an appeal regarding the law. In State v. Harding, the defendant was convicted of Felony Murder. The underlying dangerous felony was unlawful possession of a weapon. Harding was prohibited from possessing a gun because of a 20 year old felony burglary conviction.

Harding’s gun accidentally discharged and killed his girlfriend. The Court of Appeals held that “Missouri’s felon-in-possession law is sufficient to charge a defendant with felony-murder, but the underlying facts dictate whether Missouri’s felon-in-possession law is sufficient to convict a defendant of felony murder.” In other words, there must be a causal link between the possession and the victim’s death. Here, the most notable fact for the Court was that the gun became part of the incident due to Harding having the gun in a house where arguments frequently took place, children were present, and where the gun was readily available.

Hardings attorney has said they will seek transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court to contest the ruling by the Court of Appeals. If transfer is granted, the case will be briefed and argued to determine the law of Missouri in this area.