This article contains editorialized content.
Talk about an abuse of the charge of Felony Murder. This is why people despise lawyers.
This week, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a man named Larry Edward Thomas. Thomas was convicted of Felony Murder (2 counts), Homicide by Vehicle (2 counts), Fleeing/Attempting to Elude, Serious Injury by Vehicle, Possession of Marijuana, and DUI in Gwinnett County.
The back story is this: In 2016, a Johns Creek police officer tried to stop Thomas for a tag light violation. A chase ensued, lasted for four miles and less than two minutes, and ended when Thomas crashed into another vehicle, killing two people, 77-year-old Kryzysztof Krawczynski and 78-year-old Elzbieta Gurtler-Krawczynska.
Thomas was charged with all of the aforementioned counts and a jury found him guilty in 2022. Of course, this was six years after the crash, so swift justice it was not.
Keep in mind that Felony Murder simply means that someone else dies as a result of your commission of a felonious act. Most often times, this is Aggravated Assault. You punched or shot someone (in a situation the state doesn’t think you should have) so it’s not just murder, it’s Felony Murder. In the commission of a felonious act, you caused the death of someone else. If you’re guilty of Aggravated Assault and the person died, you’re also guilty of Murder. It’s a very loose way to land a murder conviction.
Felony Murder charges are flawed and overused and really just help prosecutors who can’t finish the drill with Malice Murder or Voluntary Manslaughter even, but this is an absolutely wild use of the charge…especially since Thomas was also charged with Homicide by Vehicle.
In this case, the felonies committed during an act that resulted in death were fleeing and possession of marijuana.
The judge sentenced Thomas to two life sentences on the Felony Murder charges – the most severe charges with the lengthiest sentences.
Thomas appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, citing the rule of lenity since there is case law that says there is favor for the defendant when convicted of multiple offenses for the same crime (causing the deaths) but those offenses come with different punishments.
SCOGA cited a new case they just decided this year in denying Thomas’ claims, saying Felony Murder and Homicide by Vehicle statutes actually DON’T require different punishment because “the offense of felony murder criminalizes causing the death of a human being ‘in the commission of a felony’ but the offense of homicide by vehicle in the first degree does not.”
Under the law, Homicide by Vehicle in the 1st degree comes when someone causes a death while committing another criminal act – be it a misdemeanor or a felony (like DUI or reckless driving or…FLEEING).
It’s nuances and nonsense.
Should the guy have been fleeing? No.
Should he have broken several laws? No.
Should he be classified under the law in the same way that a person who shoots and kills 2 people? Absolutely not.