How to Determine Whether Felony-Murder Doctrine Is Applicable ?
In People v. Belk, 203 Ill. 2d 187, 784 N.E.2d 825, 271 Ill. Dec. 271 (2003), residents of a nearby apartment complex heard the defendant breaking into a vehicle and called the police.
The police pursued the stolen van, which drove 100 miles per hour in an area with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour, where numerous restaurants and other establishments were still open for business.
There was other vehicular traffic present on that street and pedestrians on the sidewalk.
At an intersection, the defendant crashed into the rear of the victims' car, propelling it 375 feet from the point of impact and killing the two occupants.
Toxicology tests revealed that the defendant had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19.
The trial court found the defendant guilty of two counts of felony murder predicated on aggravated possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
On appeal, the defendant argued that his conviction should be reduced to reckless homicide because aggravated possession of a motor vehicle was not a forcible felony for purposes of the felony-murder rule.
Our supreme court noted that aggravated possession of a motor vehicle is not an enumerated forcible felony; therefore, it had to determine whether aggravated possession of a motor vehicle fell within the residual category of section 2-8. Belk, 203 Ill. 2d at 193.
The court, citing its earlier holding in People v. Golson, 32 Ill. 2d 398, 207 N.E.2d 68 (1965), noted:
"'The test to be applied in determining whether the felony-murder doctrine is applicable is not whether the felony is normally classified as non-violent, but is whether, under the facts of a particular case, it is contemplated that violence might be necessary to enable the conspirators to carry out their common purpose.'" Belk, 203 Ill. 2d at 193-94, quoting Golson, 32 Ill. 2d at 407-08.
The defendant was intoxicated, stole a van, and, in an effort to elude capture, drove at an excessive rate of speed through an area where he was likely to encounter traffic. Belk, 203 Ill. 2d at 195.
The court held:
"While this evidence would support an inference that Belk acted recklessly and contemplated that in attempting to elude police he was likely to cause death or great bodily harm, an inference that clearly supports a conviction for reckless homicide pursuant to section 9-3 of the Code (720 ILCS 5/9-3 (West 1996)), it does not support an inference that Belk contemplated that the use of force or violence against an individual might be necessary in order for him to accomplish his escape." Belk, 203 Ill. 2d at 195.