Three teenagers are likely to be charged with second degree murder in connection with the death of a Scranton police officer who died on July 12. The charges will be based on the "felony murder rule," a rule that is derived from the English common law.
The felony murder rule is predicated on the belief that all felonies such as robbery, burglary and rape are serious and violent crimes. The rule says that anyone who commits a felony such as robbery or burglary, whether acting alone or with another person, may be charged with murder if a person who is not participating in the criminal acts dies during commission of the crime. Pennsylvania has incorporated this rule into its statutory criminal code as second degree murder, and it applies to "flight after committing, or attempting to commit robbery . . . by force or threat of force. . . ."
The three teenagers were in the act of committing a robbery when they were spotted by Scranton police. The three attempted to escape by automobile and then on foot. During the foot chase, a Scranton officer fell from the top of a wall that was about 15 feet above the ground and later died from his injuries. Prosecutors are expected to charge the three as adults.
Being charged with second degree murder is not the same as being convicted. The prosecutor must prove the defendants' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Anyone who is facing such charges may find it useful to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Such a lawyer can provide a useful analysis of the facts of the case, an evaluation of possible defenses and an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea bargain or an outright acquittal.
Source: WNEP-TV, "Murder Charges Expected in Officer's Death," Stacy Lange, Aug. 5, 2015