Daily Distraction: BuzzFeed explores how police in 13 states utilize the felony murder rule

Emily Wilder's story calls to mind the local case of Masonique Saunders, who was charged with murder in the police shooting death of her boyfriend, Julius Tate Jr.

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
A memorial on Mount Vernon Avenue near where Julius Tate was shot and killed by police.

Columbus police shot and killed Julius Tate Jr. during a sting operation in December 2018.

In the days that followed, Tate's girlfriend, Masonique Saunders, then 16, was arrested and charged with Tate's murder under the controversial murder felony rule, which provides that “no person shall proximately cause the death of another person as the result of committing a first or second degree felony,” according to an emailed statement provided at the time to Alive by the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

More:The case of Masonique Saunders

Ohio is one of 13 states that still employ the murder felony rule in this manner, a policy that is the subject of a new, in-depth feature from BuzzFeed News reporter Emily Wilder. In these states, Wilder writes, "A person can be tried for the fatal actions of a third party, such as a police officer, if the death is deemed a reasonably foreseeable outcome of the crime."

According to BuzzFeed, at least 22 people nationwide have been charged with felony murder for deaths directly caused by police since 2010. (Saunders is currently serving a three-year sentence after pleading down to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery.)

“Charging the co-felons in these cases all too often provides police officers with cover in cases where the shootings are in violation of departmental policies or are otherwise unjustified,” said Steve Drizin, a professor at Northwestern University’s law school, in an interview with BuzzFeed. “The laws are used to justify decisions not to discipline police officers.”

Read the whole article here.