It is no longer acceptable to equate the intent to commit a felony with the intent to kill, intent to do great bodily harm, or wanton and willful disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of a person's behavior is to cause death or great bodily harm.
The Michigan Supreme Court consolidated three cases for determinations whether Michigan had a felony-murder rule that allowed the element of malice required for murder be satisfied by intent to commit the underlying felony or whether the trier of fact must otherwise find malice. In the first of three cases consolidated for review, defendant appealed from the Michigan Court of Appeals' affirmation of a conviction of first-degree murder for a homicide committed during an armed robbery. In the second and third cases, the prosecution appealed the reversal of defendant's murder convictions by the Michigan Court of Appeals because of the lack of a malice jury instruction.
Is the element of malice, required for murder, satisfied by intent to commit an underlying felony?
The first conviction of murder was reversed, and the second and third case reversals were affirmed. The court held that Michigan did not have a statutory felony-murder rule, and the court abolished the common-law doctrine of felony-murder. The court stated that such a rule was unnecessary and in many cases unjust in that it violated the basic premise of individual moral culpability upon which criminal law was based. The court further held that in order to convict defendant of murder it should have been shown that he acted with the intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm or with wanton and willful disregard of the likelihood that he would cause such harm. Lastly, the court held that the issue of malice must always be submitted to a jury.