Murder's still murder even if the victim dies in the hospital rather than at the scene, court rules

The Supreme Judicial Court today ruled today two men get to spend the rest of their lives in prison for murdering Alfonso Rivas in a Codman Square apartment in 2012.

A Suffolk Superior Court jury had convicted Oasis Pritchett and Reginald Holley on first-degree "felony murder" charges, in which both were convicted without prosecutors having to show which one actually fired the single, fatal shot into Rivas's head. Rivas had agreed to let the two into the apartment after arranging to sell them some high-quality marijuana, prosecutors say.

Pritchett's lawyer argued a felony-murder conviction requires the victim to have died during the course of the alleged crime, which he asserted didn't happen in this case because Rivas held on for three hours and actually died in a hospital.

The court rejected that argument, citing similar rulings in earlier cases that prosecutors only had to show that the death flowed from the original crime, which in this case was the armed robbery:

Here, it was sufficient that the fatal shot was delivered during the course of the armed robbery; that the victim died a few hours later does not negate the fact that the victim was killed in the course of the armed robbery.

The court also rejected other arguments by Pritchett's and Holley's attorneys that they should have been tried separately - because each could blame the other for the murder - and that police did not have sufficient probable cause to obtain cell-phone text messages that incriminated the two both before and after the murder, including a text conversation in which Pritchett texted a girlfriend to explain he had "fucked up" and when she asked "so whos prego," he had to explain that, no, it was something far worse.

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Thank you, judges, for some

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Thank you, judges, for some basic sense, and for not giving anyone an incentive to leave seriously injured crime victims at the scene rather than trying to save them. (One of the main things that reduced the homicide rate in recent years is better emergency medicine: hospitals can save people now who would have died of the same injury 40 years ago.) I don't think many paramedics, cops, or other emergency responders would do that in order to get a murder conviction when they didn't think the person would survive, but even one would be too many.

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It also incentivizes involved

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It also incentivizes involved parties to try to at least call for medical help for the injured party in cases where things went farther than they meant them to.

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The lede does not reflect the ruling

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I mean, the weird argument about it not being felony murder because the victim died at hospital was there, but I skimmed the decision and a lot of it had to do with fourth amendment issues, specifically on the admissibility of the numerous text messages. That they left a written trail connecting them to the crime does show that criminals aren't always the smartest minds.

If this whole appeal rested on the definition of "felony murder," I'd say that the lawyers should have to retake their bar exams, but the other elements of the appeal were at least in the realm of reality.

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