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Law School Case Brief

State v. Goodseal - 220 Kan. 487, 553 P.2d 279 (1976)

Rule:

Under the felony murder rule, the felonious conduct itself is held tantamount to the elements of malice, deliberation and premeditation which are otherwise required for first degree murder. If proof is adduced during trial that the accused was committing a felony inherently dangerous to human life and the homicide was a direct result of that felony, then the only possible conviction can be that of first degree murder under the felony murder rule. 

Facts:

 Within five years after release from confinement for felony rape conviction, defendant held a firearm when a bullet from the weapon caused victim's death. State initially tried defendant on three separate counts arising from victim's homicide: Unlawful possession of a firearm, Kan. Stat. Ann. (KSA) § 21-4204(1)(b); aggravated robbery, KSA § 21-3427; and felony murder, KSA § 21-3401. The first jury convicted defendant of unlawful firearm possession by a felon. Trial court held defendant's taped confession was voluntary, and the collateral felony, unlawful possession of a firearm, was sufficient basis to apply felony murder rule. A second jury convicted defendant of felony murder. Defendant appealed decision of Sedgwick District Court (Kansas) that sentenced defendant after second jury trial resulted in defendant's conviction under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-3401 for murder in first degree, done in commission of felony, and unlawful possession of firearm after a felony conviction, Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-4204 (1)(b)(2).

Issue:

Was the unlawful possession of a firearm by an ex-felon an offense inherently dangerous to human life?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Kansas affirmed defendant's felony murder conviction, holding unlawful possession of a firearm by an ex-felon was an offense inherently dangerous to human life that was sufficient basis for application of felony murder rule. Appellant's own testimony was that he used the pistol to scare the victim and all the evidence compels the conclusion he did in fact use the pistol in a menacing fashion as a weapon even though its discharge may have been accidental. Under these uncontroverted facts instructions on any lesser degree of homicide would have been improper.

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