Amicus Brief Shows Support for Abolishing Felony Murder Rule in Massachusetts

Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

By Kaylee Pearlman 

BOSTON, MA – The Sentencing Project recently joined other organizations in, “urging the Massachusetts Supreme Court to abolish or severely limit the felony murder rule, which the project charges, “results in extreme sentences that are disproportionate, unconstitutionally cruel, arbitrary and often racially biased.”

An Amicus Brief states, “the felony-murder rule…results in life-without-parole sentences for people who did not kill anyone, intend to kill anyone, or foresee a plain and strong likelihood of death during their participation in a felony.”

The brief adds, “because the felony-murder rule results in life-without-parole sentences influenced by extra-legal factors such as racial bias, those sentences are unconstitutionally cruel and disproportionate,” noting the rule is, “in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”

The brief’s argument was, “this Court [Massachusetts Supreme Court] should abolish the rule, or end the use of third-prong malice for joint venturers charged with felony-murder.”

“Third-prong malice,” the brief states, “Allows any person who participates in a felony that results in a death to receive a mandatory life-without parole sentence.”

However, the brief makes the argument that this prong is so broad that it effectively allows the felony-murder rule to function as it did before [Commonwealth v. Brown].”

Lastly, an account on Twitter mentioned, “@SentencingProj joined @AntiracismCtr and others in urging the Massachusetts Supreme Court to abolish or severely limit the felony murder rule…” They continue, “We’re concerned that Commonwealth v. Brown doesn’t go far enough in MA…”

About The Author

Kaylee is a senior at CSU Long Beach majoring in Criminal Justice. She is interested in the law and passionate about social justice! Following her graduation, she plans on returning to school to get a B.S. in psychology. In the future, she strives to become a criminal psychologist.

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