Illinois changed its controversial ‘felony murder rule

Injustice Watch
By Rita Oceguera and Chloe Hilles

...Last January, Illinois legislators changed the state’s felony murder statute as part of the landmark criminal justice reform bill known as the SAFE-T Act, short for the Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today Act. The law removed the possibility that prosecutors charge defendants with murder in cases when a third party who was not involved in the felony, such as a homeowner or a police officer, is responsible for the killing.

Advocates say the reform didn’t go far enough...

In 2018, California legislators changed the state’s murder statute to focus on a defendant’s intent to kill. That provision eliminated felony murder liability for co-defendants in the underlying felony who did not actively participate in the killing or act with “reckless indifference to human life.” The legislation also allowed people who were still in prison on felony murder convictions that happened before the law was changed to seek resentencing under the new statute.

Last year, California state lawmakers expanded the reform’s reach to people who were charged with felony murder but pleaded guilty to lesser crimes, such as manslaughter.

California State Sen. Josh Becker, who introduced the bill, said in an interview with Injustice Watch his colleagues aimed to balance between punishing people for participating in serious crimes and hitting defendants with sentences that are unreasonably long given their role in the offense.

“We’re going to show that there’s consequences for people who commit serious offenses, but at the same time, we want to be smart about it and make sure we’re not locking people up for much longer than it’s helpful for society,” Becker said.

The California Assembly Appropriations Committee found that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation could save at least $56 million annually in incarceration-related costs under the new law.