Washington will be retrying hundreds of "felony murder" cases due to a (state) Supreme Court ruling that found that it was unconstitutional to convict for murder when murder was not intended. "A state Supreme Court ruling in November cleared the way for roughly 300 prisoners to get their second-degree "felony murder" convictions thrown out. It was the latest fallout from the court's earlier decision that the crime of assault, unlike other felonies, cannot be the basis for a murder charge in an unintended death." (source) I know that many of you out there are lawyers and most lawyers love the American legal system, but Damn!
Almost all of these cases involve the brutal beatings and deaths of children. The reasoning of the court? "They say it's often impossible to prove an intent to kill -- which can be the difference between murder and less-severe manslaughter charges -- when someone impulsively beats or violently shakes a small child." (source) Sentences are being overturned and knocked down to assault or manslaughter -which carries a ten year sentence. In King's County alone, the Supreme Court rulings could mean new trials and lessened sentences for as many as 10 people who violently killed toddlers or infants. Opponents of this ruling claim some of the most ruthless criminals are being released back to the population.
"Prosecutors say that among the hundreds of "felony murder" cases they face retrying in the wake of several recent state Supreme Court rulings, the people who killed very young children are proving to be among the most difficult to keep behind bars."
Eleven child-killers have already been set free and hundreds wait in the wings.
David Crane was convicted and serving a 60 year sentence for burning, shaking and beating to death his three-year-old nephew. As he has already served the maximum sentence allowed for manslaughter (less than 1/3 of his sentence), he walked free yesterday. (source)
Noreen Erlandson went free last month (convicted for 40 years) after being convicted for beating to death her 2 yr. old daughter. (source)
Chayce Hanson kicked his girlfriend's 2 year old down a flight of stairs in 2000. Now instead of murder he will be facing manslaughter and child assault (but most likely only one of those charges). "When a grown man kicks a 2 1/2-year-old again and again, how can a reasonable person think that's anything other than an intent to kill?" asked Sharon Kirkpatrick, the toddler's grandmother."(source)
Once again I find my self sickened and disheartened with our legal system. I don't know what else to say...