Prosecutors in Washington State say a state Supreme Court decision on “felony murder” charges could result in 200 releases or new trials for convicts. Critics say the decision could prematurely free scores of cop killers, child beaters, and other murderers who have been justly convicted, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Yesterday, a nurse who had been sentenced to 40 years in prison for beating her toddler daughter to death walked free after 14 years behind bars because of the high court ruling.
“These trials were held, and then scrutinized and upheld, and then just to change the rules — there’s something fundamentally unfair about it,” said Mark Roe, chief criminal deputy in the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s office. “Justice was done, and now it is being undone.” The freed nurse’s attorney, David Zuckerman of Seattle, responded that many of the prisoners about to be set free never intended to kill anyone and should have been charged with manslaughter instead of murder. “What it means is that they’ll now receive an appropriate sentence as opposed to an excessive one,” said Zuckerman, who also represents 13 men affected by the last month’s Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that an assault that led to an unintended death could not be the basis for a felony murder charge.