Decision Commonwealth v. Brown

Date: 09/20/2017
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Table of Contents

Commonwealth v. Brown

Commonwealth v. Brown
Supreme Judicial Court, September 20, 2017
(Felony-Murder Rule)

A majority of Justices, through the concurrence of Chief Justice Gants, conclude that the scope of felony-murder liability should be prospectively narrowed. Holding the defendant may not be convicted of murder under any theory, including felony-murder, without actual proof of one of the three prongs of malice. Going forward, the commission of a felony by itself will no longer serve as “constructive” malice, and thus felony-murder is no longer an independent theory of murder. 

However, the Court did hold that for sentencing purposes, a murder committed during the course of a life felony will be deemed first-degree murder, as would be the case if it were committed with deliberate premeditation, or with extreme atrocity or cruelty.