Doane v. Commonwealth

In Doane v. Commonwealth, 218 Va. 500, 237 S.E.2d 797 (1977), the Virginia Supreme Court reversed a defendant's felony-murder conviction because the Commonwealth failed to prove a "causal relationship" between the predicate felony of grand larceny one day and an accidental killing while driving the stolen car the following day. See Doane, 218 Va. at 502-03, 237 S.E.2d at 798. Although the Court recognized that the crime of larceny is a continuing offense, this "fiction of the common law" would not "satisfy the requirements of Code 18.2-33 that the accidental killing occurred while the defendant was in the prosecution of a felonious act." Id. at 502, 237 S.E.2d at 798. Once the Commonwealth is stripped of the benefit of the fiction, there is neither a showing of causal relationship nor a showing of nexus between the larceny, which was complete with the defendant's asportation of the car in Richmond, and the accidental killing of Mrs. Terry in Smyth County the following day. Whether that showing must be one of causal relationship, or whether a showing of mere nexus will suffice, is a question which we defer to another day. Doane, 218 Va. at 502-03, 237 S.E.2d at 798-99.