Conviction of Felony Murder Based on Accomplice Liability In Arizona
In State v. Phillips, 202 Ariz. 427, 437, P46, 46 P.3d 1048, 1058 (2002) the court reversed the defendant's premeditated murder conviction because the evidence failed to demonstrate that he had specific intent to aid in or facilitate the murder, but affirmed defendant's felony murder conviction because the evidence demonstrated that the murder was committed in furtherance of the underlying felony. 202 Ariz. at 435-37, PP32-44, 46 P.3d at 1056-58.
The court did not suggest in either of these holdings that the defendant's presence at the scene of the underlying felony, or "participation" in the underlying felony, was necessary for a conviction of felony murder based on accomplice liability. See id.
In State v. Rutledge, 205 Ariz. 7, 66 P.3d 50 (2003) the Court expressly noted that the holding of Phillips with respect to accomplice liability did not apply because:
Rutledge was convicted of felony murder, not premeditated murder; and;
the evidence showed that Rutledge himself, not an accomplice, committed the crimes. See id. at 14, P40, 66 P.3d at 57.
In State v. Phillips, the court rejected the state's argument that "a defendant is liable for all acts of an accomplice as long as the defendant aided the accomplice in planning or committing any related offense." 202 Ariz. 427, P35, 46 P.3d at 1056.
Instead, the court held A.R.S. 13-303(A)(3) imposes accomplice liability upon a defendant only for the specific offenses the defendant "intended to aid or aided another in planning or committing." 202 Ariz. 427, P37, 46 P.3d at 1057.
As the court stated in Evanchyk v. Stewart, which it decided contemporaneously with Phillips, a defendant cannot "be convicted of felony murder committed by a codefendant unless the defendant was both an accomplice and a participant in the underlying felony." 202 Ariz. 476, P14, 47 P.3d at 1118.
Refining the test still further in its recent decision in State v. Wall, the court underscored that "reasonable foreseeability is not the test for accomplice responsibility in Arizona." 212 Ariz. 1, P21, 126 P.3d at 152.
"It is the intent of the one charged as an accomplice, rather than the intent of the main actor, that controls the accomplice's criminal responsibility." Id. P 20.
In short, Johnson can be held responsible for felony murder only if Tom Snyder's death resulted "'in the course of and in furtherance of'" the specific burglary she intended to facilitate or commit. Phillips, 202 Ariz. 427, PP39, 41, 46 P.3d at 1057, quoting 13-1105(A)(2).