Connie Keel was charged with first-degree murder for participating as an aider and abettor in the robbery of a liquor store that resulted in the death of the store clerk. Keel was convicted of murder in California at her 1981 trial, even though she was never accused of killing anyone with her own hands. To this day, Keel claims that she had no idea that her husband and cousin intended to rob the liquor store. However, under California’s Felony Murder Rule, prosecutors successfully charged her with first-degree murder. The penalty for first-degree murder is 25 years to life.
The Felony Murder Rule allows prosecutors to charge a defendant with first degree murder, if any homicide is committed during the course of specified felonies-such as robbery, rape, and burglary. An aider and abettor is anyone who helps the principal offender commit the crime. Keel is alleged to have waited in the getaway car while her husband and cousin robbed, and ultimately shot and killed the liquor store clerk.
The Felony Murder Rule is inscribed in California Penal Code Section 189. It states in pertinent part that “all murder… which is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping…, is murder of the first degree.” California also recognizes the offense of second-degree murder, punishable by sentences of 15 years to life, for homicides committed during the course of other felonies not referred to in the statute but deemed “inherently dangerous to human life.”
The Felony Murder Rule, as it’s applied in California, is not without its critics. Opponents of the Felony Murder Rule often point to the result in cases to those of Connie Keel’s case; situations where someone who is not involved in the felony, or only marginally involved, can end up getting convicted and sentenced the same as a major perpetrator. Connie Keel was granted parole after 29 years in prison, and 5 failed parole hearings.
Hiring an experienced criminal defense law firm can greatly increase your chances of keeping your freedom, and ensure you receive the lowest possible sentence. The experienced Los Angeles murder defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been helping people charged with criminal offenses for over 30 years.
Please feel free to contact Wallin & Klarich to discuss your case. You can reach us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-280-6839 or go to our website at wklaw.com for more information.