The Judge and Jury Agreed I Didn’t Kill Anyone. So Why Did I Just Serve 16 Years for Murder?

It’s thanks to an arcane legal doctrine that’s been ditched everywhere — except the United States.

Comments: 271

  1. It is not the felony-murder rule which is at issue here. That rule provides that homicides committed in the course of a felony are deemed murder, effectively supplying the required intent. The rule that this article grapples with is conspiracy theory, by which all members of a conspiracy are held accountable for the acts of the other conspirators. Thus, the mere getaway driver is equally guilty as the trigger person in a bank robbery. The underlying theory is that enlisting in a criminal operation is a hazardous undertaking. Also, it is analogous to partnership theory and aiding and abetting theory.

  2. @Julian Karpoff So, if a driver gets a ticket for speeding, than all six passangers should get a ticket as well? They may have been urging the driver to hurry, or telling him it’s okay to speed. Hence, all guilty. These laws get passed by, "law and order," politicans who get votes by being, "tough on crime.” There are no limits to human fear mongering. After 9/11, door locks on cockpit doors solved most of the problem, but instead, an innocent country was invaded, hundreds of thousands killed, a trillion spent.

  3. @Prant being a passenger in a car is not illegal in and of itself. Committing a robbery on the other hand is. And if a person engages in a felony crime, and in its commission someone dies, even if that was not their intention, they are are still complicit. If you commit such a crime you lose the right to say, "it was an accident" or "it wasn't me". The person engaged in criminal behavior that is inherently dangerous. So they suffer the ACTUAL consequences, not mere the ONES they intended.

  4. It could be argued that, without the support of peers abetting a crime, a murder wouldn't have happened. Would a bank robber feel as free to shoot a teller if he didn't know a getaway car was waiting for him? Would a criminal of any kind be as likely to do more, and worse, to his victims, if none of his peers were present? As for the criminals not holding the knife or gun - would they be likely to continue to abet others if no severe consequences were on the table? I think felony murder is a good law, and should be retained.

  5. I think a good middle ground would be to hold conspirators liable for crimes they are conspiring to commit. If they planned or aided in murder they should be punished for murder regardless of whether they were the one to carry it out, however if they did not aid the second crime they should get off. Conspiring to get high together is not the same as conspiring to murder. Crime are different and individuals should be held accountable for their own actions.

  6. @Diane replace his name with yours and see if you feel the same way.

  7. @Diane - I'll argue using the same logic that Adnan did. It was supposed to be a simple robbery, no weapons. Adnan had no idea a knife was brought to the scene. He did not kill anyone. So, why was he sentenced as if he did? Punishment should fit the crime(s), not exceed it. His sentence was reduced to 3 years!! He served 16 years for a 3 year sentence!! I understand some people think punishment is a deterrent. It's not. If it was, we wouldn't have so many of our citizens in jail. Detterence is the ONLY argument for the felony murder rule. Since that fails, it MUST be abolished here, as it has been in every other country. Punish those who kill, not those who simply participate. Being involved in crime(s) with murderers does NOT make you a murderer. It never has.

  8. Perhaps we could broaden the application of the principle of the rule to include corporate officers being held accountable for the illegal acts of their company.

  9. @rg That rule already exists; witness the recent conviction of John Kapoor and other executives at the drug company Insys for racketeering. But, like organized crime kingpins, some crafty corporate officers know how to distance themselves from the dirty work done by subordinates, making it difficult for prosecutors to prove the bosses' complicity.

  10. @rg How true. How many corporations do you see serving time in prison? Meanwhile they are currently given the "freedom of religion" to persecute people with whom the corporate owners take offense, and "freedom of speech" to place blatantly biased advertising in the media to promote the executives' and owner's candidates and positions.

  11. @rg Ha ha ha nice try! We all know those at the top are mostly immune to prosecution, of any crime they commit or conspire to commit or knowingly encourage, or plan, or pay others to carry out. Justice is doled out based on wealth, the richer the accused, the less penalty they will pay, in most cases. Poor people are thrown into the colosseum of our so called justice system, where their lives are torn apart by the lions of the corrupt system, prosecutors making a name for themselves, and others paid to fill our prisons for profit.

  12. If these laws are applied in a blanket, formulaic way, then the video has a point -- it could be sensible to reform the law to look at cases more individually to determine what the person knew about his partner-in-crime's intended actions, etc. When you and a friend hatch a plan together to commit a felony (i.e. go mug people (as this man did)) and you "agree" there will be no violence, it seems to me that you still bear some responsibility for what happens if one of you deviates from the plan and kills someone. It should be part of the court's job to determine the degree of culpability in the same way they would for any other crime -- what was your understanding of what was going to happen? When did you find out he had a knife with him? Did you do anything to try to stop him? Etc. The law could add an "aggravated" element to these crimes or an aiding and abetting dimension without sentencing each and every one of these people with first-degree murder.

  13. @Elizabeth In New York, there is a statutory defense to felony murder that the person (1) didn't participate in or order the homicide; (2) wasn't armed, (3) didn't know that the accomplice was armed, and (4) didn't know the accomplice was going to engage in conduct that could result in death or serious injury. Moreover, in New York, if you're not the actual killer and you didn't order the murder, you can't be charged with first-degree felony murder, only second-degree.

  14. @janeqpublicma Regarding (3), Adnan Khan states that he and his friend had agreed that there would be no weapons.

  15. @midwesterner A court could still raise the question: When did he find out his friend had not kept to that part of the plan? Was it only when the other guy pulled out the knife on their victim? Earlier than that? IF it was not earlier, did he have any time to try to prevent his friend from using the knife? Etc. Anyway, I think the point remains that Courts should take a more individualized view of this, as @janeqpublicma suggests is the case in NY.

  16. JK, your suggestion is that the author is struggling with the concept and somewhat confused. The article is about facts and events that are recalled by a real persons experience. Not theories. You argue for the prosecution, from the position of the likelihood of a successful outcome. Not making an offender accountable for their actions, but rather take as many scalps and gleen as much mileage as one would with what have you. A truely dispicable practice that's left untold thousands of people, not theories, languishing in prison for decades out of their, actual, lives. An Aboriginal holidaying in Florida from Australia about 30 years ago hitched a ride and was sitting in the car at a gas station when the police arrived and shot the driver dead as he returned to the vehicle after holding the attendant at gunpoint in an attempted armed robbery. I defy anyone to say honestly hand on heart that it was fair or honest to prosecute the passenger for murder in that case, but it happened all the same.

  17. @HereNow I disagree. Prosecution exists to determine guilt or innocence. Hence, many people are charged and found to be innocent after trial. That is what prosecution and “beyond a reasonable doubt” are all about. In the area of “felony murder,” society is not primarily interested in individual guilt for the death (as in whether or not one pulled the trigger) but rather in the danger to society from criminal enterprises which an individual consciously joins. I note you do not say what ultimately happened to the Australian man.

  18. @Lawrence It was an article in a magazine possibly even the late 70' with comments from his adoptive parents. It caught my attention in that they were white and he was obviously very dark skinned. They had encouraged his travels because Australia in those days was fairly racist and they reasoned that the US would be good for him because of its large black population. Well weren't they wrong. He was the last man standing and without any witness to attest to the fact that he was a hitchhiker and did not know the driver, he got skrewed. It was a very sad piece, they raised him well and the photos they provided showed a young man standing with a straight back and a friendly demeanor. As far as the Kahn case, he should have been sentenced to life for the aggravated armed robbery that led to a fatality. Then justice would not only be fair but also seen to be fair by all.

  19. Any law that simplifies a prosecutor's duty to prove mens rea should be held suspect. This legal approach comports presence (scienter) with the intent to performed a particular criminal act. Like being charged with manslaughter for an auto accident where a car was driven out of inspection but not caused by vehicle failure. Good justice is expensive, and these laws cheapen justice. A society must be willing to pay the full price for justice or suffer the full cost of injustice.

  20. @Tony E As is not uncommon, the legal reasoning here is unnecessarily complicated. Let's figure out if the felony murder rule deters crime in this country, or by another name in any other country. If it does, then it earns a claim to fairness and justice. If not, then it cannot be considered just except by an Old Testament definition. Our legal system is not supposed to operate simply on the eye-for-an-eye principle, so a shorter sentence would be in order.

  21. @Sarah The legal reasoning is very simple: Society is not concerned with who pulled the trigger in these cases; it is concerned with the high risk of a pulled trigger when there is criminal enterprise. The individual that society cares about is the innocent victim of the pulled trigger. That person could be any one of us.

  22. @Sarah It is impossible to determine the degree to which a particular piece of legislation deters crime, and there are clearly cases where the felony murder rule is applied in a silly fashion, but if even a single potential robber is deterred from using a weapon then such a law has merit. What if it had been a store full of customers, and they were all killed, and while Mr. Khan didn’t shoot anyone he helped force them to the back room where his accomplice shot them? Would the law be justified then?

  23. Don't join a group that commits crimes. If a group you're in plans a crime, quit the group and inform the police. If you stay in the group you will be equally liable for the criminal acts of the others even if you did not have the intent for that particular act. Your intent to participate at any level supplies the intent to commit all criminal actions of the group. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

  24. @Mel That does not make it right to sentence someone to pay for someone else’s actions. I prefer the old saying, “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

  25. @Mel The point is that he did not do *that* crime. It's one thing to be held accountable if you knowingly assist in a murder even though you did not pull the trigger or stab the victim, but if you are busy stuffing money in a sack and somebody else gets trigger happy--even the trials at Nuremberg made a distinction in regard to culpability. The law is wrong and needs to be changed so that each person is judged according to justice, not vengeance.

  26. @bluewhinge The law does take that into account. Each defendant is entitled to present evidence that he did not intend the homicide. The common enterprise doctrine raises the presumption that he did so intend.

  27. Beyond this single problem is a larger one in which prosecutors over charge and all with the objective of scaring folks into take a plea. So when a man who sells drugs and possesses weapons is arrested and charged, his girl friend can be charged with conspiracy (or mother as the case may be). The instances of over charging and pressuring the poor are so widespread as to be a scandal but little has happened to change this.

  28. @Terry McKenna -- Calculated over charging as threat to compel an innocent person to plead guilty is a very real and serious problem. However, several people together committing a violent crime in which someone is killed, felony murder, is not that same problem.

  29. @Mark Thomason sure. but unlike a gun murder, this was a stabbing death. it is hard to se this as remotely part of the plan. again - a gun death, I am with you. but a stabbing, not so sure.

  30. Mr. Khan would have been charged and gone to jail for murder in other English-speaking countries. Yes, "felony murder" has been repealed in most jurisdictions outside the United States. However, the same basic premise remains, at least in England, Scotland, and Ireland, but in modernized form: if you commit a serious crime as a "joint enterprise" with another person and a death results, then you can be charged with murder. Many people overseas are in prison for "joint enterprise" murder - just do a search for the term to see.

  31. It’s all about teamwork. A death is not beyond the realm of possibility when you commit an armed robbery. If you get in on that team you’re signing up for the possibilities and that sounds like a valid reason to share responsibility for any resultant deaths.

  32. There's a natural law lying beyond our civil law that's called "the law of unintended consequences," or more colloquially, "stuff happens." I get it that Khan didn't commit murder and never intended the robbery he willingly participated in to lead to a murder. But all robbers involved in all robberies ought to know this can happen. That said, a life sentence seems too harsh.

  33. The subject was part of criminal act which left a victim dead, the victim's family destroyed, and his children's future irrevocably changed: that is a sentence that doesn't end after 16 years. For the subject, who feels aggrieved over his subsequent punishment, there is a simple moral, practical and legal solution –do not participate in criminal acts.

  34. Why oh why do I find it hard to be sympathetic? Mr. Khan chose his occupation and his associates. I see nothing wrong with holding him accountable for his conscious choices. Isn't this, after all, the very core of criminal justices? TG

  35. "You and your friend plan a robbery" begins one of his examples for why the felony murder rule supposedly should be eliminated when a person is murdered in the course of the robbery. I don't feel sorry for the fellow convicted of murder even if he didn't pull the trigger. Don't plan robberies, which by definition involve the action of taking property unlawfully from a person or place by force or threat of force. There is a high degree of probability that a person could be killed in a robbery. I feel sorry for the person murdered, and his family.

  36. People who don’t plan robberies and who in fact never rob have been sent to jail under this law. This law criminalizes accidental relationships. A hitch hiker should not go to jail for life for the crime that the driver commits while getting gas. But they do.

  37. Sorry, but I disagree. Any participant in a crime which results in murder shares equally in the guilt.

  38. @Robert Howard In 2003 the USA killed perhaps 100,000 Iraq soldiers and civilians based on the threat of WMD that were never found. We have no excuse. It was a collosial crime. 100,000 people killed. Would you agree that you were part of that crime as you were aware of our military attacking country that was found to have not been producing Weapons of Mass Destruction, and your taxes were used to buy the weapons used?

  39. @Larry Lynch I don't necessarily support the felony murder rule but this is an awful argument. The government mandated us to pay those taxes and choose entirely independently to invade Iraq. We're no more responsible than a kidnap victim taken along for a robbery would be of a death, even if they knew they were going to a robbery or were forced to materially assist.

  40. Define participant? Is it any hitch hiker who they might have picked up or is it the people who planned the crime. The issue is intent and knowledge and not who gave you a tide.

  41. I am concerned that removing this law removes accountability of accomplices to serious crimes. Should Mr. Khan have been allowed to go free because he didn’t actually pull the trigger? What is a “fair” sentence for someone who participates in a crime in which someone loses their life? If he had chosen not to be a criminal would this murder have ever happened? An accomplice is exactly that. Someone who aids and abets others in performing a crime, in this case murder.

  42. @JRS: He wasn't asking to go free. He was asking to be charged for what he did, not for what others did.

  43. @Frank O If he didn’t want to be charged with murder, he shouldn’t have gone in to the robbery with firearms.

  44. @JRS In Mr. Khan's own words from the videos he states that he committed a crime and serving time was appropriate. What about the kid who went to jail because the police killed his friend as he was running away? Does that sound ok?

  45. No. If you commit a crime in which you ought to realize someone could be killed, then you are responsible if that happens. This was armed robbery. The robbery went in with weapons. Obviously someone might use one of those weapons. Someone did. Those who did the robbery together knew or should have known that could happen. Reckless or wanton behavior means a conscious disregard of known risk. Violence includes using the threat of violence. Use of violence with conscious disregard of the risks of innocents being hurt is criminal. This writer clearly does not yet understand why he was locked up. He should be kept locked up until he understands, and reforms. Right now, he's as much a danger of doing it again as were his fellow murderers when they did this together.

  46. @Mark Thomason “He should be kept locked up until he understands and reforms” ??? He wasn’t let off for good behavior. He was let off because the state law changed reducing the punishment to 3 years.

  47. @Patrician -- Then the state law should not have been changed, and he should not be on the streets with this attitude.

  48. We need to find out if the felony murder rule is a deterrent to crime. If not, then let's change it. It is long past time to determine this for all felony sentencing. The need to remove persistent, dangerous and irredeemable felons to a secure facility for many years at a time in order to protect innocent people is separate from the issue of punishment.

  49. @Sarah--Punishment for committing crimes doesn't have much to do with whether it deters others, or with whether it serves justice either. Incarceration is really revenge, that's all. But, we're too enlightened to admit that what we want from the justice system is simply payback, so we claim it's a deterrent. If imprisonment or even the death penalty was a deterrent, we wouldn't have any crime. Murder would only have ever happened once.

  50. @Ms. Pea -- First, the death penalty deters at least one person from committing further crime, although obviously life in prison would have that specific effect. But the notion that we still have murders so there's no such thing as a deterrent is wrong, and in my mind at least, juvenile. We don't have a way of determining how many people choose not to commit a crime because of fear of punishment, but we can be reasonably sure that number is greater than zero.

  51. @Sarah The rule removes animals from society. There is no excuse for committing a crime, particularly with people who have weapons or have no regard for human life.

  52. The most serious objection to the felony murder charge is that it is just a tool for prosecutors that works only when applied to the low level criminals. Can you name one "crime boss" or "drug lord" who was convicted of felony murder when his underlings murdered a victim in the course of committing felony crimes such as drug sales? Can you name one "gang" whose leaders and members were all rounded up and charged with felony murder in support of murder to enforce the gang's territorial claims? There is no justification for felony murder if it is not, or cannot, be used successfully to attack organized criminal activity.

  53. That’s not how it works. If the mob “boss” wasn’t there at the drug deal, then that makes things harder to prove. That’s why it’s not successfully used like that as often. But of course it is used on organized crime as well, but there are far fewer targets at any given time in org crim because those operations are long and slow moving until the end typically.

  54. @Max marshall Aren't you admitting that the felony murder statutes cannot be, or in practice are not, used to successfully prosecute the big and are only useful in prosecuting the little fish? Isn't such a statute of questionable worth?

  55. @OldBoatMan Seriously? It has been all over the news - El Chapo by way of one of many examples.

  56. Several of the top comments approve of the felony murder rule, but are making assumptions that it is used only in armed robbery-type situations and is applied sensibly. The man sentenced for murder because the police killed his friend during a robbery shows that this is not the case. Also think about the range of crimes that are now considered felonies: non-violently obstructing the construction of a pipeline or being at a protest where vandalism occurred. Of course protestors are often white and it is unlikely, perhaps, that the felony murder rule would be used when the original felony wasn’t a robbery. The rule is probably applied selectively and in a racially-biased manner, because this is how our criminal justice system works. Even criminals committing a robbery or driving the getaway car for a violent crime have the right to be charged only with the crime they commit in every other country in the world. Those countries are right and we are wrong on this.

  57. If you intentionally use the threat of deadly force to steal or commit whatever crime, and someone else dies because of that choice, including when a police officer is forced to shoot your partner in crime, you should be held responsible for that death. You murdered your friend when you agreed to go put his and others lives at serious risk with your crimes. I don’t understand why people get caught up on the technicality of who pulled the trigger. Responsibility should be taken for a risk you should have every reason to be aware of before you start playing Russian roulette with peoples lives for your own personal gain. Most applications of this law that I have observed have been sensible.

  58. @Hdb What specific crime has the driver of a getaway car committed other than involvement in the crimes of his accomplices? It's legal to park in front of a bank and it's legal to drive away. Now suppose that the robbers take a hostage and the hostage is shoved in the back of the getaway driver's car while an accomplice holds a gun to the victim's head. Is the getaway driver now more culpable because the violence is occurring in front of him and not in the bank? When you act in concert, you are all responsible for the crime.

  59. In the commission of a crime, it is reasonable to assume that brute force and fear of injury is what compels an individual to accept victimization. At any moment, the victim may chose to resist if the odds tilt to his favor. Criminals purposefully come prepared to be successful and force is accepted as necessary. You cannot back off and argue, I was just robbing, but my accomplice used more force than I was prepared or agreed to use.

  60. Bingo. Someone who gets it.

  61. What about if you argue you had nothing to do with it, were not part of the planning, and had no idea what someone else in the car was suddenly going to do. You were in the car because you needed a ride. Then what?

  62. @Bobotheclown That's not the argument being made here. No one is asserting an innocent bystander should be prosecuted for felony murder. But where, as here, the defendant is clearly engaged in the underlying felony, holding him liable for the murder is absolutely just.

  63. I believe that intention should be considered an important factor in determining guilt, or its degree. That's the difference between murder and manslaughter. If a person is told that a couple of acquaintances plan to distract a shopkeeper and lift a sixpack and that no one is armed, and is asked to drive and wait outside, he has no reasonable expectation that violence might occur. If he is asked to drive the getaway car for an armed robbery he does have, or should have, such an expectation; then I think the felony-murder rule should apply.

  64. @Thomas The intention is to commit a crime. With a weapon. Do not do that. If you do, you belong in a cage. Forever. There is no excuse.

  65. @Thomas Should he be held just as culpable, though?! Consider if he has no weapon, no expectation that anyone will be shot (brandishing guns, one expects compliance), and wasn’t at the immediate scene. Consider also that the U.S. appears to be an international exception in applyin such a Draconian interpretation

  66. I understand the author's argument and can agree, to an extent. Prosecutors use this charge as a bludgeon, particularly in multi-defendant cases. Read through a typical indictment in a multi-defendant murder case and you can find scores of these counts. For example, a typical crime of armed robbery against a person committed by several defendants in Georgia against a person sitting in his or her car (assume the car is taken by gunpoint and money as well): the charging instrument could include charges of armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle, aggravated assault, possession of firearm during commission of a felony, and possession of firearm by convicted felon (if a felon for that defendant). Now, if the victim dies as a result of this armed robbery and/or carjacking, ALL of the defendants are subject to felony murder charges for EACH of the underlying offenses listed above. So, as you can see, an indictment can have multiple counts of felony murder for each defendant. There are merger rules that can apply at sentencing for some counts but the felony murder counts give the prosecution a slew of opportunities for a jury to find someone guilty of murder. I'm not a fan of removing the rule bur instead allowing defendants to raise an affirmative defense against the charge and to have the jury advised of the elements for this defense. New York State allows this, for example. The rule is harsh, and is overused by prosecutors, but perpetrators should not be off the hook for this.

  67. Having served as a juror on a murder trial the evidence speaks for itself. The intent and motive is examined very closely. Each element of the each crime charged is contained in the jury instructions. Believe me these jurors give the benefit of any doubt whenever possible even when done exists. Jurors are actually performing mental gymnastics to set criminals free everyday. The lack of remorse and the denial of the perpetrator as demonstrated here is absolutely unforgivable.

  68. @Charlie You’ve completely missed the point. It’s the law that’s the problem. The jurors can weigh all the evidence they want to, but if the law says that the accomplices are to be found guilty of nurses, too, even if they didn’t participate in the violence, that’s just wrong. Plus, expressing remorse has nothing to do with determination of guilt, so you’re mixing apples and oranges!

  69. You are unreasonable. The crime was commissioned and committed with your participation and without any coercion on you then your responsibility to all that violence in that crime belongs to you and as well. Own it! If you don’t have the time to serve then DO NOT do the crime.

  70. @Marsha Pembroke "nurses" ???

  71. Years ago in Maryland 2 men were robbing a liquor store and as they left an off duty police officer shot and killed one of the men. No one in the store was injured but the living robber was charged with murder. My guess he was surprised as he was sentenced. Last summer 4 teenagers were robbing houses in Baltimore County and one of them was left in the car. A police officer arrived and attempted to stop him as he drove away leaving the other 3. He ran over the officer and she died. All 4 of them were convicted of murder. I can hear the detective now saying to the 3 who were not in the car, "Just admit you were robbing the house, you were not in the car and did not run the police officer over." It is legal for detectives today anything to persons they are questioning and the consequences of not understanding the law is sometimes severe.

  72. @Bob That doesn’t make sentencing the other 3 for murder right, though! The law makes no sense and, as the article indicates, the U.S. is a backwards exception in holding other responsible — and to the same extent!

  73. @Bob If you decide to commit a violent crime, you are reasonably held to account for the results of that crime, even if not anticipated by you. For example, you rob a bank and the teller you are pointing a gun at has a heart attack (or you tape her mouth shut and she has an asthma attack and dies). Or one of your accomplices does so. Or a cop tries to stop the crime and shoots and hits a bystander. Bad things often result when people commit violent crimes. It's one of the many reasons you shouldn't commit a violent crime. The fact that the you did not intend or directly cause the bad thing is irrelevant. It's one thing if you did not actually intend to participate in the crime (you went into the bank with a friend who told you they just wanted to make a deposit). But if you and the friend walk in with guns blazing with the intention to threaten people with death if they don't give you money, then bad things are likely to happen and you are responsible. Maybe think about it first.

  74. This article reminds me of the Op Ed a while back where Chelsea Manning argued for trans people to be allowed to serve in the military. A great message with reasonable arguments put forward in a very unsympathetic way. There are examples of this law being used in preposterous ways that immediately inflame a reasonable observer’s sense of justice. But a man sentenced for murder because his co-conspirator in a violent crime committed a murder seems like the law functioning as intended.

  75. I'm a law student and generally support the felony murder rule. If you agree to take part in a robbery, you assume the risk that someone may end up dead; a normal person could anticipate that, especially in a case like this where multiple people set upon a victim. Mr. Khan served 16 years because he participated in a violent crime and someone ended up dead. It is illuminating that he doesn't take any responsibility for his behavior, and the only person he seems to feel sorry for here is himself.

  76. @Grace I was a law student 45 years ago. You sum up my views as well.

  77. @Grace Think of Uber. Uber's founders weren't stupid. They knew that some people would die while using their app. Some would be killed by drunk drivers, for example. Are the founders just as culpable for those deaths as those drunk drivers? No. You might argue that the founders share in *some* of the blame, because they were involved in these deaths, or because they helped to expose their drivers and riders to a foreseeable. But there's no way they are *equally* worthy of blame. What does this show? That there's a difference between a killer (someone who directly causes a death) and someone who is merely involved in a death or who helps to increase its probability. It is unjust to always hold two such people equally responsible.

  78. @Roger Are you really suggesting that someone who steals drugs from another person and then stands by as the victim is stabbed to death after premeditating the theft with several other people is somehow equivalent to the CEO of Uber establishing a company for which a tiny percentage of employees might eventually die while doing their jobs because of the criminal behavior of an unrelated individual?

  79. The first paragraph of the article is vague. I want to know more detail. Like how many accomplices, all their criminal records, age and facts about the victim, time and location of the violent crime, sentences of all involved and what crimes they were all convicted of, etc. So, once I have all that information I can evaluate my standing opinion that they ALL deserve life in prison, period, the end.

  80. You served 16 years in prison for participating in a crime which included a murder.Whether you or your partner pulled the trigger or administered the fatal blow that ended a human life and destroyed the lives of the victims family and friends changes nothing. Your claim of being a victim of injustice is self-serving nonsense.

  81. It’s only an arcane legal doctrine to people who choose to engage in violent crime and associate themselves with people willing to kill. To people who want to live violence-free lives, it’s an important protection. Robbery is a violent crime and Mr. Khan is a violent criminal. Was this the sole robbery he committed? He had a role in another person’s violent death. Conduct yourself in a manner that does lead to the death of innocent people and the felony murder rule never be a problem for you. Also I don’t buy the fact that Mr. Khan and his associate went unarmed to rob a drug dealer. I am fairly certain almost everyone charged under the felony murder rule claims they didn’t know their associates were armed or that they might kill someone. People do terribly stupid things when they are young. It’s a credit to Mr. Khan that he has made something of himself, but he seems to greatly discount his role in the violent death of a human being.

  82. But it’s not an important protection. It’s a protection that is part of a broken system that contributes both to our having the world’s highest incarceration rates and gun violence rates that are up there with El Salvador and Venezuela. If it worked, I’d support it. As it is, it’s head-for-an-eye (not even eye-for-an eye) and we are all blind and poorer for it.

  83. @Jean Auerbach I worked as a prosecutor and then as defense attorney and I respectfully disagree. Mr. Khan has stated elsewhere that if he had known that a weapon was going to be involved he would not have gone with his accomplice. Thus the idea that one should do whatever they can to avoid the use of deadly weapons in this society was concept familiar to Mr. Khan. I am not sure what gun violence rates have to do to Mr. Khan's case, but the homicide rate in the US (5.3/100k) is nowhere near what it is El Salavdor (61.8/100k) or Venezuela 56.33/100k). That there are far too many people in US jails and prisons for NON-VIOLENT crimes, in particular drug offenses, is also another issue as Mr. Khan was never one of those people. If you play a role in the violent death of another person while you are committing a serious crime, expect there to be grave consequences. Mr. Kahn's "I didn't know that was the law" has never been a valid defense. In my opinion, marijuana should be decriminalized, which would help reduce the rate of incarceration, but interestingly it would not have prevented a death in this case, because Mr. Khan didn't want to pay for his marijuana. I truly hope his case draws attention to the consequences of participating in violent crimes with the aid of others. There is no room for violence whatsoever.

  84. Why should we have sympathy for this criminal? He plotted a crime in which guns were used, a murder committed, and he says that since he didn't plan/want/actually commit the murder, he should be set free. What about the victims family, or the victim, they cant be set free/resurrected from the prison that this criminal created

  85. Mr. Khan: The felony murder rule serves a useful purpose. You knew that the drug robbery would use weapons and force and therefore might cause bodily injury to the victim. Nevertheless you decided to participate and made the robbery possibly. Therefore you deserve the consequences.

  86. I generally look forward to reading the comments of NYT readers which are very often thoughtful, knowledgable and well argumented… except when the subject is crime and punishment. Americans, and even liberal NYT readers, become incredibly narrow minded, cruel and vengeful when the subject is how to deal with people having committed crimes. Lock 'em up and throw away the key seems to be the simple answer that most Americans adhere to. Strange that not many seem to be bothered by the fact that this system does not work, that the USA has one of the largest jail populations on the planet, is the only « advanced » nation to maintain capital punishment and yet remains a violent, crime ridden society. Nations that have a much more humane justice system have far lower crime rates than the USA. Strange also (I'm being ironic) that such a « Christian » nation practices forgiveness at such an inexistent level.

  87. @Alan We have the largest prison population because of the thousands jailed for one-time drug possession and like crimes. Once someone is killed in an attack, the game changes. Forgiveness will not bring back the person whose life has been taken in that crime.

  88. @SFR The point of forgiveness is not to bring back the dead, nor to pretend that an evil action never happened. It is to choose to move forward in ways that release both the criminal and the victim (or the victim's proxies by relation or by love) from being bound in that evil moment for all time. "Forgiveness is an invitation to the imagination. It is not forgetfulness of the past, rather it is the risk of a future other than the one imposed by the past or by memory." - Christian Duquac

  89. @Alan Indeed. If I have to read "don't do the crime if you can't do the time" one more time, my eyes will roll straight to the back of my head. There is no benefit to sentencing based on such trite sentiment. Nobody is suggesting that he didn't deserve to serve any prison time— not even he is suggesting that. But he was given a LIFE SENTENCE at 18 years of age, for a murder he didn't commit. Drunk drivers can kill someone with their car and receive a lighter sentence than what this man received. What about the "Affluenza Teen," who killed 4 people while driving intoxicated and was sentenced to no active incarceration for the 4 counts of manslaughter he plead guilty to? In contrast, I stole my parents' car in 1996 (at age 16) and was incarcerated for a year. Where is the justice? Life sentences should be reserved for heinous, premeditated crimes where the offender is deemed likely to reoffend. If incarceration was really as much about public safety as it was about retribution, we would have different sentencing laws. Mr. Adnan was old enough to know what he did was wrong, but to classify him as a murderer and a lost cause is sad. I hope none of you, with your harsh judgements, ever have a teenager of your own who makes a similarly poor decision. Perhaps you'll say that you wouldn't raise a child like that, but my mother would have said the same before I went off the rails as a teen. People can change. We should let them.

  90. Ah yes, the finest Justice system in the world. Or more accurately, the more money you have the finer the Justice you get.

  91. It is ver hard for me to generate a lot of sympathy here. Mr. Khan was a willing part of a crime that resulted in the death of an innocent person. He could have chosen not to do this crime - perhaps if he had done that, his victim would still be alive. Finally, It is hard for me to understand why anyone would want to even remain alive after participating in such a crime. What is the point? You have already demonstrated by your choices that you have failed terribly as a human, so what is the point of even your continued existence? Existence is generally pretty pointless anyway, but combine it with total moral failure, and one must think long and hard why even to continue. I see this much more a story of personal than legal failure.

  92. @HM "Existence is generally pretty pointless anyway . . ." Why the concern over ending something that is pointless? How could such a thing as "moral failure" be of any relevance to a pointless existence?

  93. Society should never punish citizens for offenses they didn't commit. Yet innocent people are regularly held accountable for the racist policies of their ancestors.

  94. @Gerry Bruder They're not innocent. They participated in a crime and knew they were participating in a crime. Crimes can be risky. Bad things can happen that were not foreseen, but this is part of the risk these criminals bought into. Keep the felony murder rule.

  95. @Gerry Bruder I must have missed all those trials for descendants of slave-owners getting locked up... Being asked to help fix a problem from which you directly or indirectly benefit is not the same as being held accountable for the original acts.

  96. Oh, if that were actually true, we would be such a different country!!! Instead, we just talk about accountability which is perhaps slightly uncomfortable but very different.

  97. Felony murder is one reason the US is such an outlier in incarceration of its citizens. No other country comes close - China has many times our population, but fewer people incarcerated. As a percentage of population it is the same story. When the US sticks out from other countries in such a negative way it is time to look for improvement. And commenters should look beyond the need for vengeance when considering this issue. It is human to want to completely ruin the lives of evildoers, but our justice system is supposed to be better than that.

  98. @KittyKitty7555 China just changes to name to re-education camps. Also how would you know any of the state controlled statistics are the truth?

  99. @Johnson, The US has been at the top of the list for percentage of population and absolute number of incarcerated people for years. Please, every single country that reports these stats is not lying.

  100. I disagree with this piece. If you are part of a team, crew, gang, group, whatever, that sets in motion an illegal activity during which someone is injured or, as here, killed, then every member of that illegal enterprise is equally responsibility for and guilty of murder or assault. Period. Felony murder is not antiquated. It is the only reasonable response. I used to be a prosecutor. I prosecuted felony murder cases. I then became a public defender and defended them as well. I am fairly liberal - fair - when it comes to crime and punishment. Felony murder is fair.

  101. Apparently the NYT agrees with your position, but I do not. For one thing you only apply this to illegal activity. If this principle were also included in legal activity where someone dies or is murdered, you might see the principle a different light. Maybe not. Imagine if everyone on a camping trip was charged for murder if someone in their party killed someone. Actually it has probably happened before in the US, because a crafty prosecutor knows how to insinuate they weren’t camping at all but had as their underlying intent not a pleasure trip, but to commit crime. That’s how it works in the US, and that is why this rule has been eliminated elsewhere. We have the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world, and probably the harshest punishments too. Yet we still have crime. Isn’t it time for some new ideas besides putting people under the jail.

  102. Look at the shootout in Waco a few years ago where bikers showed up for a planning event at a local restaurant. This was a legal gathering with no criminal intent. When a dispute happened in the parking lot and several people were shot and killed, the entire gathering was subsequently charged with conspiracy to commit murder. That was over 200 people in one conspiracy. It does happen.

  103. @John Mr. Khan was not exactly on a camping trip when this happened. He was involved in an armed robbery that involves threatening the victims with use of deadly force.

  104. Sorry Mr Khan but I disagree. You took part in the planning of the crime, if you hadn't maybe the crime wouldn't have occurred. You participated in the crime, if you hadn't maybe the crime might not of occurred. You participated in two events by your own choosing, that resulted in someone having their life ended. You are just as responsible as the partner that committed the act.

  105. The felony murder rule is not an “...arcane legal doctrine...”. It is a Rule that incarcerates criminals who engaged in a crime in which a person or people died. This guy participated in an armed robbery. The victim died. The only problem in this case is that Khan did not do Life. Sixteen years was not nearly enough punishment.

  106. HE did the crime. So HE does the time. Too bad for Adnan. Too sad for Adnan. But HE had choices, and HE made a bad choice. So HE pays the price. Time to close the book on this criminal.

  107. This murder would not have happened if the robbery had not been planned and executed. Furthermore, if any of the assailants was armed, it is tantamount to admitting that the use of lethal force was an acceptable outcome. No way this man should get a pass. Maybe there should be one notch below capital murder that doesn't carry a life sentence, but 16 years doesn't sound like too harsh a penalty in this case.

  108. Accomplices are held as guilty for good reason: without accomplices, the murder likely cannot happen. Shared responsibility is a good thing.

  109. @Grittenhouse That's why every country in the world that had the Felony Murder Rule abolished it save for the US.

  110. @Grittenhouse That's exactly why Accessory crimes exist. They recognize that people were somehow involved in a crime, but because they were not a primary perpetrator, they usually receive a less severe punishment. These felony murder laws go against typical accessory laws. Instead of using nuance to determine if someone was simply an accessory or a primary perp, they declare that everyone is equally culpable.

  111. @Grittenhouse Group crimes are often charged harsher than an individual's, because more harm can result and it creates widespread crime. That's why conspiracy is a separate charge.

  112. By committing a violent felony, you are taking on all the responsibilities of the situation. Perhaps the person who was shot would have liked to leave, but they couldn’t because this man had a gun and was participating in a crime that stripped the victim of all agency. I say keep the law and let the man rot. If someone died by another’s hand while you committed a felony, then you should pay for that.

  113. Yet another article in the NYT’s ongoing efforts to develop sympathy for criminals and make it appear that criminals are actually victims. To set the record straight, victims of crimes are the true victims, the perpetrators—and those who aid, abet and participate in crime with them—are criminals. I hope all the progressive prosecutors--and Democratic Presidential candidates--will give serious thought to what it means to eliminate bail, reduce sentences and allow criminals to run loose in our communities. Who is responsible for post-release crimes committed by those not released early? An apology to their future victims will be of small consolation for those who are harmed; and how about compensation and restitution for the actual victims? Early release or release without bail of thousands of criminals is a recipe for increased crime, and increased numbers of victims. (Check federal statistics of recidivism rates—very sobering.) Virtually no criminals are forced to commit their crimes; there is such a thing as free will. It's simple: Just don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

  114. @Mon Ray On the surface it seems logical that one shouldn't do the crime if he can't do the time. I invite you to take a look at Professor Harvey Silverglate's book, "Three Felonies a Day," and consider the proper definition of "crime" in the United States today. You might be surprised to learn how many "crimes" you committed this week. And you'll soon learn that many of those absurd "crimes" carry federal sentences that involve years, not weeks, in prison. I guess if you're not Black or don't stand out too much, you can scrape by. But a lot of people are ambushed by this system which is simply terrorism. The Felony Murder Rule really doesn't mean much in the context of this greater injustice.

  115. @Charles Coughlin About time somebody needlessly injected race into the story. I was getting worried there for a minute!

  116. Yet another article in the NYT’s ongoing efforts to develop sympathy for criminals and make it appear that criminals are actually victims. To set the record straight, victims of crimes are the true victims, the perpetrators—and those who aid, abet and participate in crime with them—are criminals. I hope all the progressive prosecutors--and Democratic Presidential candidates--will give serious thought to what it means to eliminate bail, reduce sentences and allow criminals to run loose in our communities. Who is responsible for post-release crimes committed by those not released early? An apology to their future victims will be of small consolation for those who are harmed; and how about compensation and restitution for the actual victims? Early release or release without bail of thousands of criminals is a recipe for increased crime, and increased numbers of victims. (Check federal statistics of recidivism rates—very sobering.) Virtually no criminals are forced to commit their crimes; there is such a thing as free will. It's simple: Just don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

  117. Thank you Mr. Trump.

  118. @Bobotheclown You’re welcome, Bobothe clown. I hope you will consider the possibility that there are life-long Democrats like me who believe that crime is a serious problem nation-wide and that criminals have earned their punishment. If there are particular laws you disagree with, you are free to work with local or state or federal entities to try to get them changed.

  119. My first instinct is similar to other readers'. No such thing as "unexpected murder" during the course of a robbery. Still, it's worth thinking about this a bit more in the context of the question of "why" we jail murderers. Punishment vs/and prevention. For punishment sake, it's not "arcane" to treat all accomplices equally harsh to the murderer...the getaway driver analogy everyone uses. For prevention sake - one can definitely make the case that it takes a different kind of person to 'pull the trigger' than it takes to drive the getaway car...and one is more likely to be a future danger than the other. Agree with others though, very unsympathetic person to make the case here.

  120. @Will: We jail murderers for two reasons. Human nature demands punishment for out of control dangerous behaviors and we hope that such punishments will deter others people from acting is the same deadly way.

  121. Another issue floated to make the Democratic Party lose elections. Sorry, if you don’t want a murder conviction, don’t participate in armed robbery. It’s simple, and the idea that an accompanying robber is not accountable is repulsive to the families suffering the lose of a loved one. Just like the fact that the grief is shared, so is the responsibility. And so should the accountability. Just because it is an “arcane” concept does not make it incorrect.

  122. As if Republicans are ideal citizens...

  123. @Ben P Of course people shouldn't commit violent crimes. But there is a significant difference between intending to kill someone, and being involved with very dangerous criminal behavior. That is the difference that reflective societies take account of, rather conflating the killer with the killer's cohorts.

  124. Felony-murder is supposed to be a deterrent. But even if not, why should a participant in a violent crime (burglary, arson, robbery, kidnapping, rape, escape, sexual assault, sodomy) not go to jail for the murder that an accomplice committed? The defendant is permitted to defend themself by claiming lack of knowledge--albeit while admitting to the underlying crime. Not unfair; only reform might be to reduce the sentence away from life.

  125. I’m sorry, don’t conspire to commit a felony and then you have no worries about rogue accomplices. And while you’re at it, don’t commit solo felonies either. I know the justice system is rife with injustices, but people still have to be accountable for their choices and accept the consequences.

  126. What about the people who made the choice to not commit a crime and who were unaware of any crime being committed but who are in jail for life under this law. What about them?

  127. I believe the felony murder rule is not just an artifact, but it is also an incredibly unfair tool used to routinely brutalize the people caught in its snare. While there is little question about the destructive nature of crime on its victims, far too little is cared about or understood concerning the brutal effects of punishment on society. People Involved in criminal activity are not islands unto themselves. Punishment fair or unfair does not just affect them. There is more than enough evidence to suggest that the harsh punishments do not eliminate crime, but we are only just now beginning to understand how harsh punishments affect the whole of society. Frederick Douglass said it best when referring to slavery. He said it poisons both the slave and slave owner. These harsh punishments are similar. They hurt all of society not just the intended recipient. Yet somehow we feel It is both just and necessary. It is neither, and these brutal ideas and actions are poisons to our society.

  128. @John: I guess it was just coincidental that Mr. Khan was involved in an armed robbery. After all who would ever think that participating in a crime of violence could end up with someone getting hurt or killed? One has to take responsibility for one's voluntary acts that risk the injury or death of to someone else. It is not like slavery at all.

  129. @John - very well said!

  130. Occasionally someone sees the obvious. Thank you for pointing out this truth but you must know that most people cannot understand what you are saying. They are the products of the poison that has long infected our society.

  131. Mr. Khan took part in an armed robbery, and someone died as a direct result of he and his accomplices being armed. While I would agree that a charge of murder isn’t warranted in cases where, for example, someone choked to death swallowing the (illegal) pill you just sold them, if such illicit sale was a felony, I think the felony murder rule is justified in cases such as Mr. Khan’s. In reality in most cases it would only be used as a tool to get accomplices to testify against the actual trigger man. Here is one reason why the rule originated, and why it can’t be easily dismissed; what if it became impossible to determine which of 2 armed robbers actually shot and killed a store clerk, or even a whole store full of people. What if both discharged their weapons, but only one bullet was fatal? In both cases, the felony murder rule is necessary; in the first case because otherwise neither is held accountable for a murder, or even a mass murder, that was clearly intentional, while in the second case both intended to murder, but only one was a good shot. Perhaps Mr. Khan’s case was different, but I doubt it. People make a decision to rob someone at the point of a weapon. It’s a little late after the fact to claim that you didn’t know someone could be hurt, or killed. If Mr. Khan had handed the victim a note that demanded money, and the victim had a heart attack and, despite Mr. Khan staying on the scene and administering CPR, had died, then he’d have a case for overcharging.

  132. Rather than change the law it might be easier if one does not commit the felony that precedes a death.

  133. The point is that many people charged did not commit any felony but were charged anyway. But thanks for playing...

  134. other than the law against murder, it is hard to think of a law that makes more good sense than felony murder.

  135. The comments here bear out one poinr clearly. For many people, most perhaps, the purpose of the criminal justice system is to exact retribution. all moral questions aside, the desire for vengeance seems an ineradicable part of human nature.

  136. @richard The desire for vengeance is definitely strong in the US and that is why it has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Virtually all other Western countries have far lower incarceration rates as well as lower crime rates. Mass incarceration costs a fortune, ruins lives and decimates communities. Convicting someone of a crime they didn't actually commit is contrary to the principles of fundamental justice and has no place in a fair legal system.

  137. @richard I also am not in favor of using our criminal justice system for retribution; I believe its primary purpose to be the protection of the public. But that being said, Mr. Khan did commit a crime that resulted in the death of someone and that, to me, says he is a threat to public safety. I am fine with getting rid of felony murder but I am not fine with freeing people who present a clear risk to the public. If the CJ system gets rid of felony murder, they need to make sure there is still a mechanism available to keep people locked up for however long is necessary to ensure public safety.

  138. @richard Thanks for your reply. It is astounding to me that our society seems so intent of retribution. It is true that the murdered man is the victim. We should be doing everything possible to re-assimilate somebody in the society. It is the moral thing to do and the economic thing to do. Incarceration does not bring back the life of the victim. I can be even be more harsh: The desire for retribution is disgusting to me.

  139. The accomplice liability is not during the commission of ANY felony. The felony has to be one of the specific listed VIOLENT felonies like robbery, rape, arson, kidnapping, etc Because committing one of these dangerous felonies carries a high risk of death, accomplices are held to to all outcomes that flow from committing such a dangerous crime. Beyond the concept of accountability, this law has so many problems with it and was so poorly written, that murderers will definately be set free.

  140. In reading the comment section, I am getting the impression that many readers perceive that the accomplice is arguing for NO sentence. He is staying that receiving a life sentence for murder is unfair. I agree. The accomplice should receive a sentence for armed robbery. If I were the decedents relative or friend I might want a more severe sentence. But my need for revenge is not the duty of the courts or the law.

  141. @Jody--Revenge has become the motive for sentencing. That's why victim statements are allowed, and victims' families are permitted to sit in court with prominently displayed photos of the victims, or wearing t-shirts with photos of victims on them. Victims or their families are sometimes permitted to have a say in sentencing. Retribution rather than justice has become the norm.

  142. It isn't revenge to sentence a.murderer to life in prison. It is the only way to ensure they do not kill again. There is this thing called public safety....

  143. @Jody It's not a desire for revenge that compels us to advance public policy that deters violent crimes. If you decide to rape someone, rob someone, or kidnap someone, you absolutely know that you are engaging in a very dangerous act that could potentially bring about the victim's death (even if you absolutely do not want that and plan the crime in a manner to prevent that). The crime might require more force than you anticipate and you may accidentally kill your victim. Your rape/robbery/kidnapping victim could suffer a panic attack that triggers cardiac arrest and die. Or your accomplice could go outside the parameters or your agreed-to plan and the victim could wind up dead. If the worst possible outcome happens to the victim, an outcome that the criminal could have or should have known could happen, why then should the worst possible outcome not happen to the criminal?

  144. Many of the comments point out that the armed robbery entailed the risk someone would be killed so Mr. Khan owns the murder. But we HAVE laws to punish armed robbery, including all the risk it involves. Even when an armed robbery does not result in death, it causes just as much risk of death. As a lawyer, I’ve always been baffled by this: Why not punish the crime rather than the consequences?

  145. @Sara P The consequences of a simple armed robbery that results in death of an innocent person are different from the consequences of a simple armed robbery that could have, but did not kill someone. Taken separately, an armed robbery and killing someone could be treated differently than the compound actions. When combined, the effects on victims and society are amplified and we should not ignore that.

  146. So the person who kills should be convicted of murder and the others convicted of armed robbery. That's the only outcome that serves justice fairly.

  147. @Sara P It must be motivated by an attempt to give satisfaction to the victim's need for revenge, which is a function of the actual consequences. Maybe a legal system must have a touch of this to maintain legitimacy with the population it governs. But I would tend to agree with you.

  148. Aren't laws like this meant as a deterrent that you should think about before you act with others to commit a felony that could possibly result in murder. Was the murder planned? If so, he is as culpable as the person who committed it. You can't act in concert and enable someone to commit a crime and then claim innocence of that crime.

  149. @Deborah But the reality is that the fear of punishment is not a deterrent. I ask this question every time I take my high school juniors to visit Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana, which I do every year for the past fifteen years. The response from the inmates with whom we speak is that life imprisonment or a death sentence is not a deterrent. They don’t think they’ll get caught. How many of us have thought about some illness, disaster, or consequence of a choice and said to ourselves, “Oh, that will never happen to me”? And, as Mr. Khan says, he was unaware of the law. Again, I ask 125 juniors every year if they realize they can go to jail if they are stopped by the police and the cops find illegal drugs on the friend riding in their car or if the friend robs a convenience store while they’re pumping gas. Guess how many seventeen year olds are aware of that law.

  150. It appears that people commenting here are ideal citizens, respectful of the law in every sense.

  151. @Rich So maybe we should have no laws at all? I mean if no one follows them or knows what they are?

  152. I'm cognizant of the fact that our justice system is one of the harshest among similarly developed countries. I'm also cognizant of the fact that it tends to disproportionately affect low income communities. That said I feel no sympathy for Mr. Khan and I feel no desire to remove or change this law. To recall my two law classes, a defendant is liable for negligence when they create a scenario in which it was reasonable to expect harm. By planning and engaging in a robbery while bearing deadly weapons, I feel Mr. Khan created such a scenario. I would say it's unfortunate that he had to pay such a price because of another person, but at least he knew such an outcome was possible. The victim, on the other hand, had no choice in the matter and paid. far steeper price for the actions of Mr. Khan and his associates.

  153. @Nick I would have to agree. Our legal system has lots of issues, but this is way down on the list if it is a problem at all.

  154. This law applies to people who did not plan the crime, did not participate in it, and who committed no crime themselves. What about them?

  155. When the punishment does not fit the crime, it is an injustice. Where there is a sense of injustice, citizens do not respect law and order. It applies to the felony murder cases discussed by Adnan Khan. It also applies to lenient sentences, such as the recent NJ rape case where the judge's "good family" remark about the rapist led to his resignation. Most people are not clear about the legal distinctions between First degree murder, Second-degree murder, Manslaughter, & Infanticide. Intent is a major factor. The debate about whether the criminal act itself or the intention of the accused is more significant in assessing punishment is an ancient philosophical problem. Some 2,500 years ago in India, the Jains said it should be the act and Buddhists said it should be the intent. Both Jains & Buddhists are atheists. These so-called "religions" rejected the existence of a Creator God, but believe in rebirths & karmic consequence. Thus their sense of "punishment" extends beyond the present life. This debate is never settled because it is entwined in religious dogma, philosophy, ethics, culture and tradition. Don't even bring up Sharia Law.

  156. The degree of culpability is calibrated in sentencing. Ideally. In reality, many inmates have been condemned via conspiracy theory/law of parties when their behavior was not equivalent to murder. Particularly hard-hit are women who hang around with violent men. Yes, they provide "support" but no, they do not act with the same mens rea, or guilty mind. If judges in sentencing cannot act with appropriate discretion, then the law must be changed.

  157. Any time you agree to commit a crime you are risking conflict with law enforcement and the victims. If you make that decision you live with the results. It would have been much better for all if you had just gone to work that day.

  158. @Helen G Did you watch the video? This man knows he is culpable for the wrong he committed. He knows he should serve time for that felony. But he did not commit murder. He should not serve time for that. Period.

  159. You miss the point. It is about people who never agreed to commit a crime and in fact did not commit a crime. They are the ones most often charged under this law. Is that clear enough?

  160. @Amala There are some crimes that are so inherently dangerous (robbery, rape, kidnapping, etc.) that the offender knows or should know could potentially cause the victim to wind up dead. (If I see you on the street and decide I'm going to rob you [i.e., use force to take something from you that you don't want to give me], I should know that the force could possibly escalate to a level that I didn't originally intend and that the end result could be your death.) If, knowing that, an offender still chooses to to proceed with the offense (i.e., choosing to put an innocent victim in a potentially life-threatening situation), should s/he not suffer the worst-possible consequences if the worst-possible outcome occurs?

  161. Exceptionalism? Not here. Except for those fleeing the violence created by the U.S., in Central America, WHO would want to emigrate here? We've lost it, but that's exactly what tRumpsters want--isolation and failure. Here, the citizens are supposed to be afraid, because of stuff like this.

  162. @ChesBay You make it seem as though having the opportunity to commit such crimes and receive a lighter sentence would or should be an inducement and attraction for immigration. Did you really mean that??

  163. "So Why Did I Just Serve 16 Years for Murder?" Because you are fortunate to be a citizen who lives in a country that eventually, more often than not, gives a criminal a second chance and offered you parole. Consider yourself lucky.

  164. I sat on a jury (but didn't vote) where the accused did the same thing. A kid that was on a little league team I coached was out in the getaway car while the guy inside killed the victim. Both were part of groups that plotted crimes, plots that went badly. Both are now in jail for decades. Our state law is harsh on people who point loaded guns at others, and treats their intent as irrelevant if their crime produces death. We should keep this value in law: you don't point loaded guns at people. You don't commit crimes that involve pointing a loaded gun at a person.

  165. @Sid Olufs - a kid? You lost me there.

  166. If I consciously decide to drive 130 mph and I am caught I get a ticket. If I have an accident at 130 mph then I have committed vehicular manslaughter. What happens when you violate a law has a big effect on what the penalty should be. Is that right? I think so, but intent has to be determined in the sentence, an accomplice that didn't pull the trigger shouldn't get the same sentence as the person who pulled the trigger, but both participated in the murder even if one unwittingly.

  167. @wayne griswald And if you're an accountant who signs off on garbage financial statements when you know the client will use them to raise funds you should be guilty along with the client?

  168. The last time I served jury duty it was a felony murder case and the prosecutor while questioning prospective jurors said there's no evidence the defendant pulled the trigger, just that he was part of a group of people committing a robbery and someone else in the group pulled the trigger and killed the victim-- could you still vote to convict for murder? That really split the jury pool right down the middle. I didn't get selected for the jury but I looked the case up several months later and the defendant was convicted and is now serving 50 to life.

  169. Obviously there is nothing personal about it. But the prison industry is very grateful.

  170. The felony murder rule is not "arcane." It is a standard element of criminal codes in the US and something every first year law student learns about. It is intended as a deterrent against participating in a crime with co-conspirators. In my opinion, the felony murder rule is a sensible rule that should remain on the books.

  171. @James Grosser would you not agree that there should be an "out" when there may be extenuating circumstances towards a specific individual?

  172. You sound like you are in law school. You need to think and realize that many of the laws you study are illogical, biased, and unjust. If you can’t figure out which ones wrong, congratulations! I think you will make a good lawyer.

  173. Felony Murder’s primary purpose is in very specific cases where the culpability of each individual actor in the crime is impossible to determine. For example, a murder takes place during a robbery in a location that doesn’t have security cameras. The weapon, having been handle by everyone in the group, has everyone’s fingerprints on it. Each defendant swears under oath that it was their accomplice that fired the fatal shot. This creates reasonable doubt for each defendant. In this case would justice be served if no one was convicted for the victim’s murder simply because every defendant could have reasonably been the one that actually fired the gun? Felony murder allows all actors to be culpable. In my opinion it is necessary for cases like this but ONLY for cases like this. Unfortunately laws must be general when created because we cannot create new laws for every possible situation. In our system where the DA aims for the highest possible punishment and the defense aims for the least, I feel there is often a lack of reasonability on the part of the state when deciding whether a particular crime should fall under felony murder or not. In the cases where the culpability of each individual is know (i.e. there is surveillance footage of the fatal shot that clearly identifies the shooter), this law should only be applied in cases where the non-shooter defendant knew that the possibility of this crime leading to a death were high and agreed to it anyway.

  174. @Hannah I disagree. When I was taught the Felony Murder rule, the principal purpose given for its existence was to hold every person accountable for the foreseeable actions arising out of a violent felony. Robbery, which by definition is a theft committed with the use of force, is a violent felony. When a person agrees to participate in a robbery, that someone may be injured or killed is foreseeable. A person convicted of robbery should be held accountable for all foreseeable results of that crime.

  175. But many people are in jail when they did not agree to participate in a violent felony, or a crime if any sort. What about them?

  176. This change needs to occur. I once sat on a jury that convicted a so-called accomplice to murder. He was a teen-ager of low intellect who had restored a junk car. A gang leader talked him into letting him drive his prized car around the block with a few other gangsters. The teen-age car owner sat in the back seat. During that drive, one of the passengers shot into a park and killed a child. As the law was written, we had to convict the car owner of the murder. I was so troubled that I asked the judge for guidance twice. Each time, I was told to follow the written instructions that had been given to the jury explaining the law. It was one of the worst moments in my life.

  177. @katylee It’s not to be used lightly, but jury nullification is an option.

  178. A juror cannot be coerced into making a particular decision, by a judge or anyone else. You could have voted not to convict.

  179. Perhaps you are not aware of the concept of “jury nullification”. A judge never mentions it but a jury always has the right to set aside any law that they believe is being applied unjustly. So you had both the legal power and moral understanding to save the owner of the car but you blew it. Your conscience should bother you forever.

  180. As a practical matter, I've never seen a co-defendant that cooperated against the actual killer NOT receive considerable leniency. Most of the time, there is a significant amount of finger-pointing among the remaining defendants that proceed to trial. The thing getting lost in the ether is that the felony murder is meant to punish the foreseeable consequence. When you join an enterprise where a foreseeable consequence is that someone could lose their life, it hardly seems unfair to be held accountable when it happens. Should we abolish laws governing vehicular homicide? Surely no one intended to get drunk, drive a car, and kill an innocent person. To the family that lost a loved one, the lack of intent is cold solace.

  181. Under your example, any passengers in the car who did not prevent the drunk person from driving would be held equally guilty.

  182. @Jerry Engelbach Absolutely yes! They were part and parcel of actions with foreseeable consequences. Different would be if they ignored the state of inebriation of the driver.

  183. @Jerry Engelbach This is where hypotheticals lose their edge. We could go down that rabbit hole and never come out. Could some prosecutor technically charge the passengers? Sure, but he wouldn't. ...And if he did, the jury wouldn't convict. That's why you've never seen it. Criminal liability is not dissimilar to pornography. You know it when you see it. Several armed men that rob a bank together are viscerally and intuitively different from the passengers of an inebriated driver.

  184. The felony murder rule makes sense. I find it instructive that Mr Khan never mentions the victim in his case nor the victim’s family. His focus is on himself, the law that he feels wronged by, and later on all the other prisoners who he feels sympathy for because they, as he was, are in prison because someone died in the course of a crime they were involved in committing. Missing is sympathy or any apparent empathy for all the victims and their families and friends. The law sees it differently. It prioritizes the victims and states that engaging in a criminal activity puts innocent lives at risk with consequences intended and unintended flowing from the decision to participate. This is the correct priority. The crime has had profound consequences for the victim (and associated relationships). The law states there should be measurable, appropriate consequences for the perpetrators of the felony(s). The law can take into account various circumstances to lessen or increase the degree of accountability and the punishments that accompany these decisions Personally, i believe the Law should hold accountable while also seeking to elicit remorse, create understanding and a sense of personal responsibility and eventually in some cases return and reform. It is not always possible and we should not risk further victims lightly. Mr Khan shows no apparent empathy for the victim of the crime he planned and perpetrated, including possibly unintended consequences. His concern is with himself

  185. @DW "His focus is on himself, he feels wronged...." Maybe after you spent sixteen years of your young life in prison, your own focus would be on your own self. Would it be unreasonable of me to think that?

  186. @Jim Weidman Hi Jim, I hear you and it’s fair comment, but I think it misses the point regarding the law. Khan is arguing against the unfairness of the law but doesn’t express remorse for being involved in a criminal enterprise, nor awareness of the role his participation played in someone losing their life, nor empathy for that loss. I understand that he feels his sentence was not justified by the crime. But most people writing on this thread, and I wager most Americans, disagree. For those of us who think that an individual case and sentence ought to be nuanced in relation to the people and circumstances involved, it would help Mr Khan’s case regarding the law in general if he expressed any understanding of the impact on others of his actions (and the actions of all those imprisoned, like him, for being a felony accomplice to murder). The law can be far more lenient where responsibility is taken and remorse is expressed.

  187. Adnan Khan did not have one word of remorse for the victim of his crime who lost their life needlessly. No apologies to the family. Nor did he state any remorse for the actions he took that resulted in that loss of life. Were we to believe him the real victims are not the murdered, but those sentenced for the murders. How about interviewing the family of the victim in the interest of fairness, so that they might state how the loss of the loved one has long impacted their lives? They are still serving that unjust unwarranted sentence, and will be for the rest of their lives.

  188. @Lawrence The endless suffering of the victim's family is awful, but the point is that Adrian did not kill, and he was sentenced as though he had.

  189. @Lawrence So you want him to talk about things outside the subject matter? Larry, if you asked Adnan what he felt about the victim, and he refused to answer, then and only then do you have a point.

  190. Could we apply this to police killings of suspects? Suppose several police are surrounding a suspect. One of them pulls his gun and kills the suspect. Suppose the killing was unjustified, because the suspect didn't present a threat. The shooter was guilty of manslaughter. Should all the police be guilty of manslaughter? That would make it easier to prosecute those cases in which the suspect dies, but each cop argues that the prosecutor can't prove that his actions specifically caused the death.

  191. @Norman Interesting point. Does this shared accountability apply to anyone working as a team? I think not. The difference in the case of law enforcement is that a police team's objectives are authorized by law and regulated so as to reduce harm. If harm occurs, the responsibility is the officer's, their supervisors, and ultimately the policy makers above them.

  192. Violence is at the very core of a robbery, which is defined as the taking of property from someone through force or fear. Usually the weapon of choice in this act is a gun, or sometimes robbers just physically overpower their victims. Many times victims are left maimed or shot and don't die. In any case these crimes are serious, violent and have very unpredictable outcomes. Suspects in these cases usually have a plan and work as a team and are making a conscious choice, and many are involved is a series of robberies which escalate in violence over time. That someone would be killed in a violent act like this should not be a surprise to anyone, especially a team of violent armed robbers. When a death does occur everyone should be held accountable.

  193. I support the felony murder rule. How can we ever believe these people when they say they didn't know? They knew someone would be killed. I can just see it now- older criminals talking kids into pulling the trigger and then walking away without any punishment because 'I didn't pull the trigger.' What a joke.

  194. Felony murder isn't an "arcane legal rule," it's about being responsible for your actions--a concept that career criminals typically have a tough time wrapping their heads around

  195. @Ben L. If every other country in the world has dropped this rule ... don't you think it might be unfair?

  196. @Joan The thinking of Ben L. typifies the reason that the U.S. has not addressed the felony murder rule as other countries did. We are indeed exceptional. We are collectively tougher-minded than other modern democracies by a dimension. Hypocrisy is the fabric of our history. We show collectively little remorse for our decimation of Native Americans most of whom live in poverty. We act righteously indignant at the very IDEA of reparations for the hundreds of years of slavery that we inflicted and profited from. We abide, indulge, fund, and defend an abusive justice and prison system that guarantees ravaged lives for all who fall into it. We beat our breasts with teary-eyed patriotism and shrug off responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands (and more) innocent people in our cynical Vietnam and Iraq adventures. The affiliated cronyism and pork barreling enriched and empowered profiteers beyond comprehension. We already treat innocent people like criminals, putting their children in cages, so there is little compassion from our shallow reservoir left over for convicted criminals. With a record like this, why oh why would we care for a few powerless people who went to prison over the felony murder rule?

  197. @Trista sweet pontificating, but this is not unique to the US, it's just called "joint enterprise" in the glorious, just and crime-free utopia of "other countries"

  198. Life can be tough.

  199. I am strongly against our unjust and racist criminal legal system here in the US. But frankly, I’m sick and tired of violent criminals getting portrayed as heroes! True, he should not be in prison for decades for a murder he didn’t commit, but he’s still morally culpable for the victim’s death. I hope he knows that. Somehow, despite lots to be furious about, I don’t go around robbing people by gun or knife point, and I don’t leave my house with a crow bar planning to beat people with it (see eg, the Central Park jogger case). People who plan and commit interpersonal violence should not be lauded as heroes or walking red carpets — the thought of them on a pedestal makes my stomach churn. Let’s correct the system and put these people in their rightful place — in jail, just for shorter times.

  200. Judging by the comments, it's amazing how many people didn't actually watch the whole video.

  201. Robbery is a crime of force and violence. There is always the possibility of the victim being seriously hurt or killed. I have no sympathy for Mr. Khan.

  202. If me and my friend are standing on an overpass and she says, hand me that brick, I'm going to throw it at a car and I do. Should I get off because I didn't throw the brick?

  203. By and large I support this law as is. The possible exception being a case I read about a few years back where after robbing a bank, the robbers were trying to get away flea via a vehicle and end up crashing their car after their tires were spiked by the cops. One of the robbers died in the crash, one of them tried to flea on foot while firing a gun at the police and was killed by the cops. The surviving robber (who was not the driver) was then charged and convicted of felony murder for the death of both of partners in crime. To me that seemed a stretch.

  204. @Still Waiting for a NBA Title It's because it is reasonable to anticipate that, in the commission of a crime and attempt to flee, someone could be killed. If not for the commission of the felony, the people who were killed in the resulting accident would still be alive. The felony itself is what created the risk of death. The felony murder rule is intended to be a deterrent to committing felonies that are likely to result in heat of the moment deadly circumstances.

  205. @Still Waiting for a NBA Title. If you bathe your dog, the fleas will flee. Attempting to get away from a a situation = flee.

  206. So why did they have a gun with them?

  207. This reminds me of a crime that happened about a decade ago in Knoxville, tn. Two men broke into a house and in the process of their burglary a kid hit one of them over the head with a space heater and the man died. Because his accomplice died during the commission of the felony he was charged with felony murder.

  208. @Travis Because it is reasonable to anticipate that during a burglary, someone might be killed, whether by the burglar or the homeowner.

  209. @Travis, this is not an unusual configuration.

  210. @Travis That is so absurd! No wonder we send everyone to prison.

  211. Adman Khan helped facilitate the death of an innoncent victim. Now he sees himself as an innocent victim of the same circumstances. It seems his 16 years in prison taught him nothing about responsibility or compassion.

  212. I don't believe in unjust punishment or incarceration. But the purpose of the Felony Murder Rule is to deter people from committing ANY crime by saying, in essence, "If you commit a crime which is defined as a felony, you're risking being sentenced for ANY crime resulting from same. So ... think about that before you choose or agree to in any way participate, aid or abet that criminal enterprise." Yes, there are anecdotal examples of overreach or lack of fairness (e.g., the couple of examples to which he cites), and those should be addressed individually. But bottom line is: if you spit in someone's face, you can't say that their only acceptable response is to spit in yours. If they choose, in response, to punch you or take a baseball bat to your windshield or to hit you with a chair ... well, that might happen. In other words, if you don't want to risk that sort of response, then don't spit in their face. If you don't want to risk being charged under the felony murder rule, don't commit or get involved in any way with the commission of a felony. The rule doesn't need to be changed. The rule needs to be PUBLICIZED. Big ads on Jerry Springer or other popular TV shows or whatever. Let everyone know how much they risk by ANY involvement in a crime and maybe they won't get involved.

  213. You are serving 16 years for being a willing accomplice to murder. Murder is without a doubt the most heinous of crimes. It is reasonable that, if a group is commiting a crime, and during the unfolding of that criminal act one of the group commits a murder, it is the other members moral duty to desist from their criminal act in order to prevent the murderer from evading justice. There may not be honor among thieves, but each is cognizant that one crime can spiral into many.

  214. 16 years seems appropriate for his involvement in the death of an innocent robbery victim.

  215. In the great western novel Lonesome Dove, Gus McCray said it best - "You know the rules Jake. You ride with outlaws you hang with outlaws"

  216. @Lawrence Yes! And your mom no doubt said that you are known by the company you keep.

  217. @Lawrence Because a 35 year-old work of fiction romanticizing life in the 1870s has tremendous bearing on the real-life nuances of the American legal system in 2019.

  218. @Lawrence He also said 'whackin a surly bartender ain't much of a crime'. Bet the bartender doesn't feel that way.

  219. An important distinction that most people appear to have missed -- California did not abolish felony murder, it amended it. Now, to be convicted for felony murder the participant must have the intent to kill or be a "major participant" acting with "reckless indifference to human life." Eliminating felony-murder completely is a tough question, as it can be supported under theories of retribution and deterrence, but these kinds of common-sense modification -- giving judges and juries greater flexibility in assigning culpability and crafting a fair sentence should be supported.

  220. @WDC Thank you - at last a comment that reflects the sensibilities I have. One size fits all is too arbitrary. I have seen enough Investigation Discovery murder documentaries to witness the great disparity of culpability of accomplices - some naive dupes - some cunning masterminds. In order to judge you need to be able to exercise judgment. Rigid statutes obviate that exercise and substitute an obtuse prejudgment in its stead.

  221. I saw Anthony Ray Hinton speak during one of his tours, where he travels the country to educate audiences about innocent people convicted of crimes they didn't commit. Mr. Hinton spent 28 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit. He was framed by an Alabama police force. Editorial real estate in the NY Times is limited and precious. I wish this space was used to educate us about how many innocent people have been sent to prison, and what is being done to remedy this. I have no interest in reading a 'poor me' story from a man who willingly committed an armed robbery. Yes, I can skip over it, but this editorial real estate could have been used to further society, rather than simply for clickbait. Newspapers have an obligation to shed light on inequity, and not use their precious editorial space to give a platform to self-confessed felons who believe they got a raw deal.

  222. @dga Consider me guilty for reading this but I was not aware of the law and found it very interesting as well as the various positions held by others here in the comment section. We all have things to learn and I do not regret the use of the editorial real estate on this topic.

  223. The USA have the highest violent crime rate per capita in the world. About 8 times more than the average in Europe. The USA have also the highest incarceration rate in the world by 8 times more than European average. And still the last industrialized nation not to have abolished the death penalty, known as a crime producer .

  224. If one engages in a criminal conspiracy, one does not get to control what the other members of the conspiracy do, but everyone in the conspiracy have created a circumstance where any other member is far more likely to act violently than they would be absent the crime. If a thief brought a pit bull to a robbery and it mauled someone who resists, will their defense lawyer blame the dog? Is someone who knowingly launders money for a drug cartel free of moral responsibility for the violence the cartel commits? The answer in both cases is "of course not". There is a reason this is or was the law in every state, and it is not because no one thought of the author's circumstance when the laws were created. If a criminal wants to only be charged for their own actions, they should commit crimes alone and not invite someone to a situation where it is impossible to know how the other person will react under pressure - until it is too late. This argument is ridiculous.

  225. If you commit an inherently dangerous felony - like an armed robbery - there is a high risk that someone may be killed by you or one of your coconspirators. That is the reason behind the felony murder rule. It is not “arcane”. It makes perfect sense. If you join a criminal conspiracy and act overtly to further it, until the conspiracy comes to an end or you disavow it you are legally responsible for every crime committed by your coconspirators. That is not an arcane rule either. The better practice is to not commit inherently dangerous felonies and to refrain from joining criminal conspiracies. If you do, and someone dies, you have mo one to blame for your murder charges but yourself.

  226. There was a high profile case here in Colorado in which a young woman was convicted under a felony murder theory for murder of a police officer, even though at the time her "accomplice" shot the officer, she was handcuffed in the back seat of a police car. She originally was sentenced to life without parole. Although she had a lot of support from high profile people, it was not the unfairness of the felony murder charge that ultimately resulted in her conviction being reversed. It was because the jury had been mis-instructed on the underlying crime -- breaking into an ex-boyfriend's apartment to retrieve her own belongings -- which would have been trespass, a misdemeanor, rather than felony burglary. But the case highlighted how extreme the felony murder rule can be. https://www.aspentimes.com/news/auman-conviction-tossed/

  227. @Elsie H Perhaps this was also the result of prosecutorial mis-conduct? He/she/the certainly should have known the underlying crime was not a felony burglary .

  228. @Elsie H This is an excellent example of how capricious and misguided the felony murder law is used. But I have to add that whenever a law enforcement officer is killed, prosecutors charge anyone remotely involved to satisfy society’s lust for revenge and also to make a name for themselves. Absent such a law the prosecution would have run amuck anyway. But this also remains a good example of why such a law needs to be repealed in all states.

  229. Why is the US so violent? A part of me thinks that the answer lies in a lot of the responses here. The constant demand for vengeance which serves little purpose. The US has the harshest laws the greatest number of its citizens in jail and the death penalty yet is more violent than almost any other civilised country with a murder rate multiples higher than most. This man did not intend to kill anyone he is not guilty of murder.

  230. @David It could also be that Americans are in love with freedom but not so much with responsibility for their actions. It could also be easier access to weapons that can inflict mass injuries. The law usually holds that you intend the natural and probable consequences of your actions. If you are party to a conspiracy or agreement to perpetrate a robbery, and one of your cohort kills someone, you are responsible, even without the felony murder rule. It is called aiding, inducing, or causing an offense. This is not vengeance, it is an allocation of responsibility created by the legislature.

  231. @David I agree and would only add that this was a crime involving marijuana which I assume was illegal 16 years ago, even in California. They robbed a marijuana dealer, ie someone engaged in an illegal activity himself. No, the dealer shouldn't have died because of it, however, "the war on marijuana" has already claimed too many victims.

  232. @LS Are you arguing that committing a crime against a criminal that was not targeting you is not a crime, but a gift to society?

  233. The question is one of culpability. Armed robbery is a reckless action that has a least the potential of endangering the lives of innocent victims (lethal consequences). While Mr. Khan himself shouldn't be charged with the same murder as the person who actually pulled the trigger, it should certainly be an aggravating circumstance in the sentencing for the crimes he did commit. The problem with these overly punitive charging/sentencing rules beyond the basic unfairness of charging someone with something they did not themselves do, is the fact the law is not applied equally. Therefore it has the effect of harming certain offenders in the justice system more than others based on race, or position in society.

  234. A good lady friend of mine was robbed at gun point in the parking lot of a Walmart several years ago. The robber jumped out of a car (in which several accomplices were sitting) and did the deed. Luckily she complied with their requests and nothing went fatally wrong. They took her purse and when they tried to use her credit card for the THIRD time in two hours the police were able to apprehend them. Think of the people in that car watching their friend commit an armed robbery against my friend. They were clearly co-conspirators in the matter and their mere presence increased the terror level for my friend (who for a few seconds thought she might be kidnapped). They may as well have been pointing a gun at her too. If something had gone wrong and the guy killed my friend how would I feel about the trigger man and the people in the car? I'd say lump them all together, lock them up, and throw away the key.

  235. I can understand your point of view, but what you are really advocating is revenge, not justice. The killer is the person who commits the murder, and unless you can prove that the accomplices intended for the murder to happen, which would be conspiracy to murder, they should not be charged or convicted for that crime, in a just society.

  236. @Ryan The two cases are different, because the people in the car agreed to to use a weapon in the robbery, knowingly creating a risk of death. In Khan's case, there was an agreement not to bring weapons to a robbery , and his partner broke his promise.

  237. @Ryan “May as well have been pointing a gun” is not the same thing as pointing a gun at a person.

  238. The felony murder law is unjust and possibly a violation of the Geneva convention (collective punishment). It is absolutely inhumane and must be abolished. Reading through the comments, I am surprised by the support for the law. It seems to be a classic case of "tough on crime" gone wrong. Yes, it seems like a great idea and a way to make violent criminals pay but in practice, it is poorly applied. I would make two points; that justice could be better served by charging criminals appropriately and perhaps amending laws to this effect in the case of felony murder (as California has done) and that this law is part of a greater problem we have in America with over incarceration and the prison industrial complex. To the first point, California has amended the felony murder law so that an accomplice may only be charged with murder if that acted with intent to aide or abet in the act of a murder. This seems entirely reasonable to me. As it is, a potential robber could ask a friend for a ride to work. Unbeknownst to the friend giving the ride, the criminal could actually intend to rob the business, accidentally kill someone and that friend could be charged with murder. On my second point, this is a classic example of giving prosecutors a tool to lock up criminals and the prosecutors misusing that tool to lock up people for much longer than would be just.

  239. Jesse, no law leads to the perfect application of justice, but you have given no reason this law is any more inhumane than other laws.

  240. I'm wondering why several commenters refer to Khan's crime as involving a gun or "pulling the trigger." He states that the person he was with used a knife, not a gun.

  241. Here's another headline from today's NYT: "Louisiana Police Officer on Facebook Says Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ‘Needs a Round’" According to the felony murder rule, should individuals who try to instigate gun violence — in this frightening example a long-term police officer who is still on the force — be charged if the nuts who follow them comply? If I had to choose between living next door to the officer in question or Adnan Khan, or running into either of them in a dark alley, I'd prefer Mr. Khan. There is something terribly wrong in America.

  242. No. You totally misunderstand the felony murder rule.

  243. @Steven Guardiano Threatening a member of congress is a felony. At least it used to be, back in the days of civilized presidents.

  244. You served 16 years for murder because you committed a crime during which someone was killed, and the law chooses to punish criminals who participate in conduct that results in death. As you well know.

  245. Hey Mr. Khan.....not a word about justice for the victim? And you work for the Justice project. What's up with that?

  246. There are both deterrent and practical reasons for the felony murder rule. The practical reason is without the felony murder rule teams of criminals working together may be acquitted. Three guys with guns walk into a liquor store, rob the store and one of them fires a single shot and kills the owner. All three are seen walking in to the store, a gun shot is heard, all three are seen running out. "A" says "B" shot the owner. "B" says "C" shot the owner. "C" says "A" shot the owner. There is more than sufficient evidence that one of the three fired the shot but there is no evidence as to which one pulled the trigger. Jury has to acquit all three of murder since there is a reasonable doubt as to each individual defendant.

  247. If a person participates in a violent felony that any reasonable person could easily escalate or end in the use of deadly force, that person chose to be part what happens. A robbery necessarily involves the use of force to get another person's belongings. Is it any great surprise that victims sometimes (gasp) resist being attacked? Does it take a leap of imagination that things might "go wrong", resulting in someone dying? Would the guy who pulled the trigger even have contemplated the robbery without the support of compatriots? Likely not. I have no doubt that Mr. Kahn would have shared in the fruits of the robbery. Why shouldn't he bear the natural consequences of that violent behavior.

  248. If you are committing a crime and you know that your accomplice is armed, then you are aware that someone could be killed during the crime, even if you don't kill them yourself. If you go through with the crime anyway, you are as responsible for a death as if you pulled the trigger and killed the person yourself. That is the rationale for the felony murder rule. Works for me. If you don't want to go to prison, don't commit the crime.

  249. @Brooklyn teacher I would argue that if you know you participate in a crime, be ready to be held accountable for any of the crime's outcomes.

  250. @Kathy bee - The pertinent parts are that the robbers admitted thy intended to "rough up" the victim, and that Khan did in fact hit the victim over the head before the partner stabbed him to death. In Khan's telling, he made it sound like he was just standing there passively when all of a sudden the partner took out a knife. Not quite.

  251. Kahn and his friends agreed to rob and "rough up" a pot dealer. During the robbery, one of the men became enraged, pulled out a knife and killed the victim. Perhaps Kahn should not have received a life sentence for first degree murder. But under the new law, he would have received only a three-year sentence for armed robbery. That seems insufficient. He planned and participated in what was intended to be a violent robbery. He should be held responsible for the outcome and pay some kind of additional consequence for the victim's death.

  252. It's time for this law to be abolished. No one knows about it except those who are trapped in it. It is the most unjust law on the books. My friend, in 1993, was 18 years old, still in high school, good kid. No record, not even a traffic violation. His teachers and peers liked him. He drove some older guys to a house to get marijuana. He waited outside. Someone was killed. They ran out and told him to drive. He did. He was convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. The courts show no mercy. Now, after 26 years of perfect prison behavior, they still won't let him out. The Parole Board just gave him a release date of 2073, when he will be 88 years old. What a waste. How stupid can we be.

  253. @bq- Good kid? He drove some older guys to a house to get marijuana. Wasn't that a felony in our state till very recently? Drug buys can go wrong very easily. Good kids choose their older guy friends more carefully.

  254. @S.L. Did you ever make any wrong decisions when you were 18 years old? Should you spend your life in prison for an error of judgement that you made at 18 years old?

  255. And, by the way, the New York felony murder law does not allow for conviction if the person killed was a participant in the crime and it only applies to certain, serious felonies. And a defendant can also claim that they were not armed and didn't know that other participants were armed. So NY is not like other states. Seems to me you should have mentioned that in the text accompanying the video.

  256. Hard to feel too sorry for a participant in a dangerous felony, where you know violence could take place.

  257. All I see is an unrepentant criminal participant minus remorse.

  258. If you commit a violent felony with other people and someone dies as a result, you should be punished, whether you “pulled the trigger” or not. You participated in a conspiracy to commit a crime that resulted in death. You deserve punishment. There are piles of injustice and irrationality in the American criminal prosecution system, including rampant sexism and racism. This is not one of those injustices. Sorry.

  259. California did NOT do away with its felony murder rule. It was amended to require that a defendant who was not the actual killer must have been "a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life." [P.C. sec. 189(e)(3)] Persons such as Mr. Khan who were convicted under the prior "natural and probable consequences" provision could petition to be resentenced and released. Although a D.A. could object, they would need to establish guilt under the new provisions beyond a reasonable doubt. [P.C. sec. 1170.95]

  260. So, according Mr. Khan, if a lynching mob kills one or several persons, only the mob participants that delivered the killing blow should be punished. The rest of the mob should go free. Did I get that right?

  261. Sounds like he got off easy.

  262. Don't commit robbery. If you do, you will harm other people, and you will be caught and sent to prison.

  263. You are only as good as the worst person you socialize/hang out with. The company you keep matters: It could land you in jail for a long time. Chose wisely.

  264. Sorry, I have no sympathy for this criminal. He made a choice and he knew or should have known that if or when someone dies in an armed robbery he would receive the same punishment. Instead of robbing someone for a profession try working for a living. It's not all about you.

  265. It would be easy to assume that everyone in the group of individuals who sets out to commit say, a minor offense is guilty except when ONE of those individuals just happens to be a hothead or drunk, or a loose cannot and finds the need to "shoot someone". That's why choosing your friends wisely is so important...even when your low-level criminals because all it takes is one idiot to turn a minor offense into a murder. they should all be taken on a case-by-case basis because every situation IS different. People who point fingers and want to hang everyone would change their minds if it were one of their children and their children's volatile friends.

  266. Armed robbery is not a minor offense.

  267. If I intended to rob a bank and my accomplice is carrying a gun, then I'm as guilty as he is of committing armed robbery. By this man's token, all you need to do is find some fool willing to carry your gun for you, and shoot someone dead for you, and you're off scot-free. Doesn't wash with me, I'm afraid. If you're with people who murder, you're just as responsible. I do have a great idea, though: don't commit the crime in the first place.

  268. We never did hear about the conversation between the codefendents about what will happen if the victim resists? He never stated that this was his first armed robbery, that he was new to all of this. He never stated that in any other previous criminal acts, no one was hurt. He never stated that he had no priors. Like almost all jailhouse lawyers he is the real victim.

  269. There's a typo in this article. In the second paragraph you call the felony murder rule "an arcane piece of legal doctrine," when the correct term is "a reasonable legal doctrine broadly supported by citizens across the political spectrum."