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Colorado would-be law spotlights felony murder

| Apr 19, 2021 | Criminal Defense

“We’re no longer throwing away people who are redeemable.”

 

That is less a certainty than it is the expressed hope of one Colorado lawmaker sponsoring a new legislative bill that he and other criminal law reformers want to see modify existing law in one controversial area.

Specifically, that is the singular realm of felony murder, a charge that is not fully understood by the general public. State Sen. Pete Lee (D – Colorado Springs) and co-sponsors of the prospective legislation detailed in Senate Bill 21-124 view many felony murder outcomes as being punitively harsh and even illogical.

In a nutshell, this is what felony murder provides for: the potential conviction of a defendant on a murder charge during a felony-linked crime, even if that person wasn’t the direct agent of another person’s death.

A quick example: Party A shoots and kills a teller during a bank robbery. Party B, who is waiting outside in a getaway car, can be charged with felony murder.

That charge brings a heavy sentencing hammer in Colorado, with current law mandating a mandatory life sentence behind bars with no chance of parole.

Lee and other reformers think that the law’s reach too often yields draconian outcomes. As a recent Denver Post article notes, SB 21-124 sponsors say that punishment in a given case “should fit the crime and the individual’s guilt.”

The bill was recently sent to Gov. Jared Polis for consideration. If signed, the legislation would take effect on September 15, being applicable only to convictions secured after that date.

SB 21-124 would eliminate felony murder’s current mandatory lifetime sentencing scheme, designating the crime as a Class 2 felony linked with outcomes potentially attached to a future parole date.

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