Friday, January 07, 2011

People v. Wilkins (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 7, 2011)

This opinion is a classic example of the felony murder rule.  It should be in every first-year textbook on criminal law.

That's not a compliment.

Cole Wilkins sneaks onto a deserted construction site late at night, piles some construction materials (light fixtures, applicances, a sink, etc.) into the back of his truck, and leaves.  Four hours later, 60 miles from the scene of the deserted burglary, Wilkins is driving normally when one of the items accidentally falls off his truck.  A tractor-trailer swerves to avoid it, jackknifes, and turns over, trapping and killing a man in a vehicle next to the big rig.

So Wilkins is tried and convicted.  For first degree murder.  Forwhich he's sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

The Court of Appeals affirms.

If that's the law -- as indeed it is -- then the law is an ass.

There's no better example, in my view, of the absurdities of the felony murder rule than this one.  Some may be equally absurd.  None are more so.