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Causal Limitations

Case: People v. Gladman, 41 N.Y.2d 124 (1976) [pp. 432-436, n. 3]

Facts: Δ robbed a deli, and walked through the neighborhood to a bowling alley. Police were notified of the
robbery, and when the Δ saw an officer, he hid under a parked car. When the officer approached the car, the Δ
got out and shot the officer, killing him. The issue was whether the murder happened during the escape of a
felony, in order to apply the felony-murder rule.

Holding: Court says question for the jury if the question of whether the Δ was in immediate flight from the
felony if it is not clear. Jury should take the circumstances into consideration - interval of time between felony
& the murder, whether Δ had the fruits of the felony in possession, whether Δ was in close pursuit by police or
others, & whether Δ had reached a place of temporary safety. No single factor is controlling, and list is not
• Court holds that the jury could properly find, with these facts, that the Δ was in immediate flight - Δ has
cash & was trying to get away, he hadn't reached a place of safety yet, and police were looking for him.
Doesn’t matter that the officer may not have known Δ was there or that he was the felon, all that matters
is that Δ believed it.
• Court here doesn’t lay down rigid standards to determine the duration of the felony - they want
flexibility; depends on the circumstances.

Class Notes

• Court's standard on whether or not this was felony murder:

• The scope of the felony event - Concept of time and proximity of death to the felony - can't be too far
o Court says Δ must have been in immediate flight from the felony - jury will decide (standard-
• Facts relevant to determine whether Δ was in immediate flight: (jury question)
 Location - how far away they got
 Time - how much time has lapsed? 10 min vs 3 hours
 Still holding onto fruits of crime
 Whether police were chasing them the whole time
 Whether or not Δ had reached a temporary safe place (not immediate flight)
o Court eludes to 2 previous standards:
• Had to be still in the felony - felony had to be continuous
 Ex: if they drop the loot, the felony is over, they're only trying to escape - no
felony murder. If they're still carrying the loot, then felony still in progress.
• Res gestae theory - Things done - no felony murder if killing occurred after Δ had
reached a safe place
 this is a RULE - it's determinative; This one factor is all that mattered - if this met,
then no felony murder
 The felony could be over; but as long as felon didn’t reach safety, still felony


Notes: [p. 435-436 n.3]

• Immediate Flight
oFranks v. State (1981) - Δ robbed a market & escaped. Minutes later, he was stopped for
speeding, and the Δ assaulted and fired a shot at the officer, who was unaware of the robbery. Δ
took off again, speeding, and struck a car, killing a child passenger. Court held felony-murder
doesn’t apply, because no causal nexus between the robbery or the assault, and the death. May be
too generous?
o State v. Colenburg (1989) - Δ had received a stolen car, & tampered with its VIN #. Seven
months later, he fatally struck a child with the car. Court applied felony-murder rule, because
they said at the time of the accident, the Δ was still driving the car without the owner's consent.
• The "purposive scope" of the felony (as opposed to focusing on time period)
o Stouffer v. State (1997) - Δ & accomplices decides to attack an police informant to scare him.
They kidnap him, and stab & beat him, then leave him on the side of the road, where he
eventually dies. Court holds no felony murder. Court says the intent is very important to look at.
If the intent is of the felony, then felony-murder applies. But if the intent is that of the mens rea
of homicide, then it is not (the intent was to kill, so it's murder). The intent was not to kidnap the
victim, but actually to inflict serious bodily harm in a reckless and dangerous manner with
indifference to the consequences.
• More about from the Δ's perspective, the Δ's reason for committing the felony - is that
over or not?
Dangerous Felony Limitations

Notes: [pp. 439-442]

• Predicate felonies - legislatures may enumerate or just say "dangerous" felonies. Certain felonies are so
inherently dangerous that death is a legally foreseeable result, but others are not.
o Some statutes enumerate which felonies count (arson, robbery, kidnapping, etc.); some will
instead require, or in addition to that, that it's dangerous felonies.
• What does it mean for a felony to be dangerous?
o Some jurisdictions look at the dangerousness in the commission
• Very few jurisdictions look at it in the commission
o Some jurisdictions look at the dangerousness in the abstract
• Most states look at dangerousness in the abstract - look at the statutory charge, not the
predicate felony
 Ask whether the statutory elements themselves and see if that's dangerous
• How to determine which felonies?
o Danger in the abstract - Considering the least dangerous means of committing a statutory offense
in the abstract
• People v. Patterson (1989) - Δ and friends were doing drugs (cocaine), and one of the
girls dies from cocaine intoxication (she had been using it daily for months prior).
 A felony is inherently dangerous to life when there is a high probability that its
commission will result in death. Court looks at the inherent dangerousness of
furnishing cocaine (the felony), and in doing so, considers the elements of the
felony in the abstract. This is for the jury to decide.
 The reasoning on why the court would look at it in the abstract (as opposed to the
specific instance of the case at hand) - because every case that the court will
consider, there was a killing. That fact may lead to the conclusion that it's
inherently dangerous - this broad application may be unfair then. So it must first
be decided, in the abstract, if its inherently dangerous, then to determine whether
to apply the felony-murder rule.
 Court says the question to ask is whether the felony was dangerous in the abstract,
and not taking a look at the specific facts of this case.
 A judge (court) decides this, not jury. Because it's a legal question, not about the
specific facts of a case. Can't have diff juries decide something like this diff when
it has to apply over all cases, as opposed to a jury deciding in a particular case.
 So under CA law, court must decide whether a particular felony can serve as a
predicate for the felony-murder rule, and it must consider this without reference to
the specific facts of the case at hand. Examples of CA decisions on which felonies
are inherently dangerous:
Inherently Dangerous - found to be a Lacked "inherent danger in the abstract"
suitable proxy for "malice"
Furnishing heroin Medical fraud
Kidnapping Possession of a firearm by an ex-felon
Supplying methyl alcohol to drink Possession of a concealable weapon by an
Burning a car

• Danger in the Commission - Not only looking in the abstract, but looking at the specific facts of the
case. The actual circumstances of the commission of the offense, as well as its abstract definition, are
used to determine dangerousness.
o State v. Chambers (1975) - Δs stole a truck, then drove it drunk, and swinging wildly. They
crashed into a car, and killed 4 passengers. The predicate felony was theft of a motor vehicle.
• Court said "The collision and resulting deaths attest to the violence and danger in such
actions." The followed the CL felony-murder rule, and Court held that any felony can be
the basis for 2nd-degree felony murder if done in a sufficiently dangerous way.
• Δs stole a pickup truck, didn’t have lights on, were drunk, swerved into oncoming traffic
& killed 4 ppl. Jurisdiction only applies felony murder if felony was dangerous.
• Court looked at it in the commission - looked at the individual fact of that case.
 In the abstract - stealing a car is not a dangerous felony - usually committed in an
un-dangerous way
 But here, looking at it on the individual fact, the felony was committed very
• Problem with this approach:
 Talking about felon-murder means someone died as a result of the felony - this
probably means that the felony was carried out in a dangerous way in that
particular case. No death if committed in safe ay. Not much of a limitation at all to
say it's a dangerous felony.
• If this case looked at in the abstract - no felony murder. Can still charge murder.
o Ford v. State (1992) - uses same theory as Chambers, but diff result. Δ, a convicted felon,
accidently discharged gun while cleaning it, and bullet went through wall and killed neighbor.
Court forbade use of the rule in cases like this, where the Δ was unaware that another person was
present on the other side of the wall.