Since 1985, 11 people have received the death penalty for their participation in a felony where their co-defendants committed a homicide. We go to the Sentencing Project for a study for a study on felony murder.
Felony murder laws hold people responsible if they were a participant in felony which lead to someone’s death. This includes people who did not participate or anticipate in the killing. Only two states do not have felony murder laws: Hawaii and Kentucky. For adult felony murder convictions:
8 states and the federal system mandate life without parole (LWOP).
15 states mandate LWOP in some cases.
17 states and D.C. has an optional LWOP sentence.
4 states require a life sentence of 50 years or longer.
In Pennsylvania and Michigan, one quarter of people serving LWOP ( 1,000 people in each state) had felony murder convictions
In Pennsylvania, almost ¾ of people serving LWOP for felony murder in 2019 were 25 years old or younger at the time of their offense.
In Pennsylvania in 2020, 80% of people imprisoned on a felony murder conviction were people of color and 70% were African American.
Between 2010 and 2020, 8 out of 10 people convicted under felony murder laws in Cook County, Illinois, were Black.
In Missouri in 2020, felony murder was among the top 20 offenses that Black people were imprisoned for. This was not the case for the non-Black population.
A California study found that 72% of women serving a life sentence for felony murder did not commit the homicide, while only 55% of men did not.
14 states with felony murder laws include a proximate cause rule, which states that people engaged in a felony can be convicted of felony murder for a killing committed by a third party (police, victims, bystanders) if it can be characterized as a calculable result of their actions.