Sean Taylor Case and the Felony Murder Doctrine

The recent tragedy regarding the murder of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor concerns a legal principle known as the “Felony Murder Doctrine”. In this case, there were four individuals involved in the burglary of Sean Taylor’s Florida home. These are allegedly some of the same individuals who burglarized his house eight days earlier. During the commission of the burglary (the predicate felony), one of the defendants shot Sean Taylor in the leg. Sean Taylor died as a result of this gunshot wound. According to the felony murder rule, all the participants in the underlying felony are responsible for the murder of Sean Taylor. This is a first degree murder charge even though the murder was not premeditated. Some of the predicate felonies to the felony murder doctrine are burglary, arson, rape, robbery, and kidnapping. If a murder occurs during the commission of any of these underlying crimes, all of the perpretrators involved (even if they did not do the shooting themselves) are charged with first degree murder. Therefore, in the Sean Taylor case, all four burglars are responsible for the death of Sean Taylor and will be charged with first degree murder. They are most likely facing life in prison rather than the death penalty because the shooter was a 17 year old juvenile.

On another note, how does ESPN get away with making up words as they go along? While watching Sportscenter the other night ESPN flashed a story on the bottom line saying that “the four individuals involved in the death of Sean Taylor have been charged with unpremeditated murder”. Unpremeditated? That is not a word. Something is either premeditated or it is not….unpremeditated is a double negative.