Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach is working on legislation that would remove the felony murder rule from Pennsylvania’s definition of second degree murder.
People convicted of second degree murder in Pennsylvania face a mandatory life sentence.
“The focus is on eliminating the idea of strict liability for murder when committing another felony, regardless of your role in that murder,” Leach told LancasterOnline.
In a press release announcing his proposal, the Democratic lawmaker said people should be punished for crimes “they commit or intend to commit in a way commensurate with the crimes.”
He said the felony murder statute violates that principle because people receive life sentences even though they did not kill or intend to kill anyone.
In June 2015, the Pennsylvania Superior Court denied a Maryland man’s appeal of a life sentence he received in 1990 on two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Horace and Mary Swarr more than a decade earlier.
George Burkhardt was convicted of conspiring with three other men to tie up and rob the Swarrs in their Lancaster city home in 1979.
According to newspaper records, the Swarrs were bound and gagged during the robbery and were not discovered until a week later. They died of starvation and dehydration.Two of the other men convicted in the robbery also were sentenced to life. The fourth man cooperated with police and served a lesser sentence.
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