In 2019, 16-year-old Masonique Saunders was arrested for helping organize a robbery with her boyfriend, Julius Tate. But when the undercover police officer that set them up shot and killed Tate, Masonique got charged with murder!
And she wasn’t even there.
According to the little-discussed felony murder rule, if a death happens during a felony, all participants involved can get charged, even if they had nothing to do with the killing. And remember, felonies include anything from vandalism to drug abuse to burglary … activities that are NOT murder!
That makes this rule dangerous when manipulated.
Manipulating felony murder means that “when police officers use unreasonable force and kill someone in the course of the felony [it] … allows prosecutors to shift blame onto the felons,” says legal scholar Guyora Binder.
Not to mention, several of the 22 people charged from this rule have been Black teenagers.
No matter the reason friends and bystanders were at the scene of a killing they didn’t commit, this system is making it obvious its goal isn’t to “hold murderers accountable.” Not when the murderers are police.
If this system indicts people for being at the scene of a shooting instead of the police who committed the killings themselves, this system was never a system dedicated to justice and preventing deaths – it isn’t for us.