Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) Thursday unveiled the specific language of his bill to refine the felony murder doctrine in the Commonwealth.
“One of the foundational principles of justice is that we must punish people for crimes they commit or intend to commit in a way commensurate with the crimes,” said Sen. Leach. “The felony murder statute violates that principle, in that it imprisons for life people who did not kill or intend to kill anyone. Such an unjustified punishment undermines the effectiveness of our justice system and the public’s faith in it. Furthermore, paying to imprison someone for life, despite a lack of intent to kill anyone, is a bad deal for taxpayers, as it’s enormously costly but does not make the public safer.”
Sen. Leach explained his language in what will be Senate Bill 1138.
The language will continue to permit a sentence of life without parole for a person who commits murder during the course of committing a felony.
Under current law, if a person is involved as an accomplice in any felony, and a person is killed during the commission of that felony, the accomplice to the initial felony is guilty of second degree murder.
Sen. Leach said this is true even if the accomplice did not kill anyone, and even if the accomplice did not know that anyone would be killed or even could be killed.
In other words, if more than one person is involved in the perpetration of a felony, each person involved is legally responsible for a criminal homicide that occurs during the felony. A guilty verdict for second degree murder requires a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The cost to taxpayers of imprisoning a person for life without parole is between $40,000 and $44,000 per year, and rises as the prisoner ages due to medical costs.A copy of Sen. Leach’s bill language is available online.