Four men rode in a car drinking, smoking marijuana, and doing cocaine. They stopped in front of D's house.
Two men got out of the car and started taking the hubcaps off of D's car. D came out of his house and the car drove off leaving the two men on foot.
D fired shots at the two men. He hit one in the foot and the other in the back of the head, killing him.
D claimed that he did not intend to kill anyone but only meant to scare them by shooting above their heads.
D charged with second degree felony murder based on the felony crime of discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner.
Trial court found D guilty of second-degree murder.
CA Supreme Court affirmed.
How is the merger doctrine to be applied in limiting convictions in felony murder?
A felony murder instruction is not proper when the predicate felony is an integral part of the homicide and when, under the prosecution's evidence, it is included in fact within the offense charged.
The second degree felony-murder rule eliminates the need for the prosecution to establish the mental component. Deterrence is the goal of the rule.
In Ireland, the D's crime of assault with a deadly weapon merged with a resulting homicide and could not form the basis for an application of the rule.
The Ireland rule was intended to avoid elevating every felonious assault that ends in death to murder.
The merger doctrine does not apply when death results from D's commission of a felony with an independent purpose. (when the felony that provides the basis for the felony-murder conviction was not done with the intent to commit injury which would cause death)
D in this case asserted that his purpose was to frighten away the victims. Thus, his purpose was collateral to the resulting homicide and renders the instruction permissible.
It must be reasonably foreseeable to a D that the intentional discharge of the firearm could result in injury or death.
D would have been better off had he testified to firing at the victim intending to hit him because the rule would not apply.
Prosecutors will try to obtain murder convictions by arguing that Ds lacked an intent to kill.
Thus, a less culpable mental state would mean harsher punishment than more culpable mental states in some situations.
To prove felony murder, the prosecution must show that the D had the specific intent to commit the underlying felony. But the statute violated prohibits grossly negligent conduct. This is not intentional conduct.