Crash!

I’m sure you’ve all seen it – the image of two helicopters crashing during a police chase. I’m sure the fleeing defendant will be prosecuted for homicide, as recently happened in a Missouri case.

I have always had serious questions about the felony murder statute — the notion that if I commit a felony and someone is inadvertantly killed during the commission of that felony, I’m guilty of murder. It has led to incredibly stupid prosecutions and has served not as a tool of justice but as a way for DA’s to show they are tough on crime.

This situation is comparable. The fleeing men didn’t intend to kill anyone, but their actions resulted in tragic deaths. We need to be very careful in assigning responsibility. I fully understand prosecuting someone if something happens to those in direct pursuit. But when something secondary happens — miles removed from the scene – I’m not sure it’s their fault.

But our society has an obsession with fault. Tragedy can never be the result of bad luck. It always has to be someone’s fault. This has become the basis of our entire legal system.

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