Reporting on the case of a man who is serving a life term for murder simply because he lent his car to a man who used it to commit a robbery in which someone was killed, The New York Times examines the so-called felony murder rule that provides for the prosecution of accomplices in homicide cases as if they were the actual killers. Scholars say the rule is based on English common law, but England has abolished it, as have many countries where legal systems are based on English law.
The felony murder rule, the paper says, generally broadens murder liability for participants in violent felonies by making an unintended killing during a felony murder and holding accomplices equally responsible for the slaying. Critics say the rule is unjust. “The view in Europe,” said James Q. Whitman, a professor of comparative law at Yale, “is that we hold people responsible for their own acts and not the acts of others.”