Commonwealth v. BrownAnnotate this Case
In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court addressed the scope of criminal liability under the common-law felony-murder rule. A unanimous court concluded that the felony-murder rule is constitutional, but a majority of justices concluded that the scope of felony-murder liability should be prospectively narrowed. The court held that, in trials that commence after the date of the opinion in this case, a defendant may not be convicted of murder without proof of one of the three prongs of malice. The court held that, in the future, felony-murder is no longer an independent theory of liability for murder but is rather limited to its statutory role under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 1 as an aggravating element of murder. The majority ruled that this holding is prospective in effect and therefore does not affect the judgment reached in this case, where Defendant was convicted of two counts of felony-murder in the first degree based on the predicate felonies of an attempted commission of armed robbery, home invasion, unlawful possession of a firearm, and unlawful possession of ammunition.