On Sunday, October 30th, the day after thousands of officers attended the funeral for Sacramento Deputy Mark Stasyuk, who was murdered by a man who would not have been on the streets were it not for the broken criminal justice system in California, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1437 into law, further dismantling the California criminal justice system. In signing this bill into law, his actions make the condolences he sent to the family of Mark Stasyuk seem like very hollow words.
So what was SB 1437 that I am talking about? SB 1437 was titled “Accomplice liability for felony murder.” This bill’s goal was to rewrite the felony murder rule in California.
For those who do not know what the felony murder rule is, let me explain. When two or more people, acting in concert (as a team), commit an inherently dangerous felony, and during the commission of that felony a person is killed, all criminal participants are charged with the first degree murder of that person. If it were not for the criminals committing that crime, that person would still be alive, and therefore should all pay the penalty. It is not a difficult concept, and a law that has been in place for a very, very long time.
Here is an example of how the previous felony murder rule worked. Five guys decide they are going to commit an armed robbery of a large convenience store. One of them is the driver and the other four do the armed robbery. During the commission of the robbery, one of the suspects shoots and kills someone. All five of them, including the driver, would be charged under the previous felony murder rule, because armed robbery is an inherently dangerous crime and all the participants should have reasonably known that doing so could lead to someone’s death.
Another example, during that same armed robbery above, no one is shot but the suspects flee and lead the cops in a high speed pursuit. During the pursuit, one of the cops chasing them gets in a car crash and kills an innocent person. Again, under the previous law, all five suspects would be charged with the murder of the person killed in the crash. Again, the reasoning is the same, were it not for the inherently dangerous actions on the part of the suspects, the cop would not have been killed and therefore they should be charged with his death.
Well, the Democrats in the California Senate decided that there are just too many people in prison, so in addition to AB109, Prop 47 and Prop 57, they needed yet another way to get even more people released, and thus they came up with AB 1437. This new revision to the felony murder rule requires law enforcement to prove that the murder was intentional before the conspirators can be charged with the murder.
Now that SB 1437 has been signed into law by Gov. Brown, in my first example where the suspect shot someone, only the shooter would be charged with the murder. In the second example, where the innocent person died in the crash during the pursuit, it would seem to me that no one would be charged with their murder. Can someone explain to me how this makes any sense? How does this keep society safer?
As the Los Angeles Times so appropriately pointed out, this in fact is not about keeping society safer, but is in fact “among a series of criminal justice policies enacted under the Brown administration to reduce the numbers of those incarcerated, and give prisoners more chances of early release and services to better prepare them to enter society.”
According to some outlets, this legislation received “bipartisan support.” In looking at the California senate voting record, I find that claim of bipartisan support to be very lacking. Those voting in support were 24 Democrats and 3 Republicans, while opposed were 10 Republicans and zero Democrats, and in the assembly it was even more one sided, with 42 Democrats in support and zero Republicans, while there were 11 Democrats and 25 Republicans opposed to it. Not sure on what planet that equates to bipartisan support.
Sadly, it seems California’s legislators are far more concerned with saving money, by reducing the state costs for incarcerating criminals, than they are with actual public safety. I guess it is easy for them to do so seeing as they have armed guards and do not live in the real world with the rest of us commoners.
Submitted by Deputy Matt