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Rep. Humphrey introduces bill to protect minors from the felony murder rule

May 13, 2022
Latyna M. Humphrey News

COLUMBUS—Friday morning, State Rep. Latyna Humphrey (D-Columbus) introduced legislation to prevent Ohio’s felony murder statute from applying to defendants under 18 years old.

One of the foundational tenets of criminal law is that the state must prove an offender’s mens rea (“guilty mind”) in order to convict. Felony murder circumvents this requirement by allowing the state to substitute the offender’s intent for the underlying felony for the intent to commit murder. 

The felony murder rules states that a person can face criminal charges for murder if, during that person’s commission of a felony, someone dies. The death could be intentional or by accident; it could be caused by the defendant, their accomplice, or a third party; and the person who died could be a victim of the underlying felony, a bystander, or one of the accomplices to the underlying felony. 

“No one should be locked up for a crime they didn’t commit –especially kids. That shouldn’t be the law,” said Rep. Humphrey. “The U.S. Supreme Court has said it over and over again: kids are different than adults. They take more risks. They have a harder time thinking through the consequences of their actions. And they’re more likely to get peer-pressured into doing things they shouldn’t. Children are different, and the law should treat them that way. In Ohio, we’ve respected that idea before, and we should do it again here.”

Ohio’s felony murder statute has gained notoriety because of several high profile cases, including the Masonique Saunders case. 


Critics point out that when it comes to juveniles, felony murder’s purported deterrent effect presumes defendants understand the full scope of the felony murder rule, and with juveniles its retributive purpose is fundamentally at odds with the goals of rehabilitation and protecting minors from the full weight of criminal law. The U.S. Supreme Court has also weighed in on the reasons juveniles should be treated differently than adults, reasoning that, “Because juveniles have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform… they are less deserving of the most severe punishments” and that, “Because the heart of the retribution rationale relates to an offender’s blameworthiness, the case for retribution is not as strong with a minor as with an adult.”


Felony murder has been roundly criticized by courts and legal commentators alike, but it remains the law of the land in most states. 

 This legislation awaits a bill number and assignment to a House committee.