The common law developed a doctrine that where an accused was engaged in the commission of a felony and a homicide occurred, the felonious act was regarded as a substitute for the proof of malice aforethought required to find the defendant guilty of murder.
Thus, it became felony murder when an accused unintentionally killed a human being while committing, or attempting to commit, such common-law felonies as burglary, arson, rape, or robbery.
“ the premeditated and intentional killing of another”
“ the killing of another committed in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate any first degree murder, arson, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect or aircraft piracy”
“ the killing of another committed as the result of the unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or bomb”
“ Premeditation requires that the act be committed after the exercise of reflection and judgment, but the purpose to kill is not required to have pre-existed in the mind of the defendant for any definite period of time. … Whether a defendant has acted with premeditation is a question for the jury to determine, and it may be inferred from the manner and circumstances of the killing. … The use of a deadly weapon upon an unarmed victim, the declarations of a defendant of his intent to kill, the infliction of multiple wounds, the defendant’s prior relationship with the victim, and the fact that the killing was particularly cruel are all factors which the jury may consider in determining whether the murder was premeditated.”
This case stems from a horrific murder that took place on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in January 1995.
Christa Gail Pike, a student at the Job Corps Center in Knoxville, was convicted of the first degree murder and sentenced to death. She was also convicted of conspiracy to commit first degree murder and was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.
The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence, as did the TN Supreme Court.
“ the reckless killing of another by the operation of an automobile, airplane, motorboat or other motor vehicle: (1) As the proximate result of conduct creating a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to a person; or (2) As the proximate result of the driver’s intoxication….”
Class C felony (3-15 years), unless it is the proximate result of driver intoxication, in which case it is a Class B felony (8-30 years)
Another area of contemporary concern has resulted from technological advances in medicine that has enabled physicians to use sophisticated life-support systems to prolong life for indefinite periods.
In a landmark case in 1976, the New Jersey Supreme Court allowed parents to remove the life-support system sustaining the life of their daughter, who lay in a comatose state with no reasonable medical probability of regaining a sapient existence.
The court ruled that withdrawal of such life-support systems, under the circumstances, would not constitute a criminal homicide.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that made it a felony to procure or attempt an abortion except one “procured or attempted by medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother.”
The Court held that the law impermissibly interfered with a woman’s constitutional right of privacy, which the Court determined to be “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”
Moreover, the Court held that the fetus is not a person and therefore has no constitutional right to life.
At the same time the Court recognized the state’s interest in protecting the unborn, an interest that becomes compelling at the point of fetal viability.
Tennessee abortion law is consistent with Roe v. Wade (1973) and subsequent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, such as Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).
Women seeking abortions must give “informed consent” before the procedure can be administered. Physicians are required to warn patients of the dangers of abortion and there is a two-day waiting period after this warning is given before the abortion can be provided.