Suspect Charged In The “Murder” Of His Accomplice By A Homeowner

There is a controversial criminal case out of Danville, Illinois this month where Reggie Haywood, 30, has been charged with first-degree murder stemming from a house invasion. The charge is not strange but the underlying facts are. The person “murdered” was the alleged accomplice of Haywood and he was shot not be Haywood but the homeowner.

The home invasion occurred on January 19 when a group of men broke into the house wearing ski masks and carrying guns. The homeowner resisted and fired multiple shots at the intruders. He hit and killed Jordan Valdez-Parrish, 29.

Police arrested Haywood and charged him with first degree murder, home invasion, and armed robbery.

Here is the provision:

§ 9-1.  First degree murder;  death penalties;  exceptions;  separate hearings;  proof;  findings;  appellate procedures;  reversals.  

(a) A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits first degree murder if, in performing the acts which cause the death:

(1) he either intends to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual or another, or knows that such acts will cause death to that individual or another;  or

(2) he knows that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another;  or

(3) he is attempting or committing a forcible felony other than second degree murder.

It is not common for felons to be charged with felony murder when a person is killed in the course of the crime but that person is usually a victim not an accomplice. In reality, Valdez-Parrish was not “murdered.” He was slain in the course of a crime with justification. Yet, we have seen the continued expansion of the scope of murder charges. That has led to concern over the loss of definition in this once narrow crime.

What do you think?

42 thoughts on “Suspect Charged In The “Murder” Of His Accomplice By A Homeowner”

  1. There is prior precedent for accomplices in burglary and home invasion to be charged with murders by others acting in concert with them. But this smacks too much of the Teapot Dome scandal (in which Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was convicted of accepting a bribe which oilman Edward Doheny was acquitted of paying in exchange for being allowed to drill for oil in US Navy-owned lands..

    It may be legally consistent to charge Reggie Haywood of first-degree murder if an innocent bystander were killed during a burglary or home invasion, but I think that it needs to be explored whether the Illinois legislature can hold a man accountable for murder when one of his accomplices was justifiably killed during the crime.

    That would create an entirely new class of murders in which members of crminal bands can be charged with murder when their accomplices, say, die in police shoot-outs, are struck down by cars during the crime, or even perish in car chases when fleeing arrest for the felony by police or citizens in hot pursuit.

    Mr. Haywood’s best hope is that his attorney draws attention to the wording in Illinois’ definition of “first degree murder”:

    “§ 9-1.  First degree murder;  death penalties;  exceptions;  separate hearings;  proof;  findings;  appellate procedures;  reversals.  (a) A person who kills an individual without lawful justification…”

    Killing someone without lawful justification would seem to be a necessary element of the crime which is not met in this case. The death of Haywood’s accomplice was lawful and justified under Illinois law.

    1. scienter requires that a harm be done because of a knowingly wrongful act by someone.
      If the person had no way of knowing a harm would result from that act.

      I’m not an attorney, but the mens rea (“ready mind”) required for someone to be guilty of a crime seems to me to be a larger set of circumstances surrounding an act that can include scienter but isn’t necessarily the same thing.

      Let’s say someone dies as a result of cancer treatment wish radiation or dangerous chemotherapy drugs, but the treatment was done correctly by the standards of medical practice. Both doctor and patient may have been aware of the risk fo death surrounding that medical procedure and agreed to accept the risk knowing that the risk existed.

      The doctor had scienter of the risk, but shared that knowledge of the risk and gave an honest assessment that the benefit of not dying of cancer outweighed the risk of dying from the treatment. If the patient gave knowledgeable consent, the doctor lacked mens rea – the ready mind to commit a deadly medical assault.

      1. Ahhhh….thank you, much. Scienter is in an element in fraud, intentional misrep and securities 10b5….but it was looking the same to me on paper for a while there…

        Another one that gets me is the above and below of property rights in Tort, but then the police in criminal law can cruise in helicopter over your backyard and that’s fine….?

        I thought I had rights in the airspace above my land….but then, I guess commercial flights fly over land too…but then how far off the ground are the police….is there a threshold?

        1. Airplanes are to fly at least 500 feet above the terrain. Building towers higher than that requires much permitting.

  2. Maybe people will stop and think before they rob someone. Or get jobs and buy the things they want instead of stealing them from a hard working person who bought the stuff dead beats wanna steal!

  3. felony murder, but not first degree, because no specific intent

    doing away with first degree murder and blurring specific intent away is a bad trend

  4. I do not have a problem with a charge or sentence enhancement for the foreseable death of an accomplice in the commission of a violent crime.

    But like felony accomplice murder – it should be a distinct crime – and the sentence should be less than felony accomplice murder. Which should be less than murder.

    There is a separate issue here – the charge is “first degree murder”. Usually that is premeditated of intentional murder – again an area where over time we have blurred definition.

    To me First degree murder should be reserved for Planned murders.

    This nonsense of claiming there is an intention for an unplanned murder if the perpitrator had an instant to think about what they were about to do.

    We have distinct crimes for good reason, When we over charge – we diminish the significance of the actions of those where the action fits.

  5. There was a time when even the driver of a getaway car would be charged with the most serious crime available in whatever illegal act was performed by his accomplices. For examplee, if someone was killed, the driver would be charged with murder along with the shooter and anyone else involved. Since at that time, the death penalty was more frequently used, it provided a strong disincentive to violence.
    Now, in today’s society, we see why that was a good thing.

    1. The charge is different and the penalties are different, it still happens today, and it is still generally restricted to participants in a violent felony having joint though reduced culpability for the death of the innocent,

      Sentences today are much higher than in the past.
      The death penalty is imposed about as commonly as in the past, but executions take a long long time.

      Given that something on the order of 2% of all people on death row have been EXONERATED – i.e. PROVEN to have not committed the crime, it is wise not to rush to executions.

      1. I’m in California, and I support the 2nd Amendment to its fullest.

        But of course, I have been to a few shooting ranges, so I am biased.

  6. I do not agree with the charges at all.

    1. It wasn’t murder, but rather self defense. Two armed gun men broke into a home when the owner was at home.
    2. I don’t agree with charging anyone for murder if they did not kill anyone personally.
    3. One can be charged as an accomplice in a crime that resulted in the murder of an innocent victim, but that is not what happened here.

    I think that Reggie Haywood should be charged with armed home invasion. His accomplice paid the price of what happens when you arm yourself and break into a stranger’s house. There is no guarantee of the thieves’ safety.

    The charges do not fit the crime.

    It’s also very sad to see two young men throwing their lives away, one of them literally. Should have stayed out of trouble, stayed in school, and either learned a skilled trade or gone to college. Now one of them has put himself into a cage and the other is dead and gone.

  7. I think this stretches the law of felony murder so if one wants to charge murder in this situation then the law should be made clear. If it was an innocent bystander then I think it totally appropriate.

    I’ll bet that crinimals learning about this case will be inhibited from trying to rob a house where the owner is present and might have a weapon. A good number of people where I live have guns in their homes. We don’t see home robberies except under very rare circumstances and those are done by “professionals”. They know exactly what they want and they know the homeowners are all gone.

  8. Such cases have occurred before. Let’s hope that next time the home owner shoots this guy. If he gets out of prison he will be breaking into homes again. Sterilize his mom.

  9. Fascinating case. Let’s assume the homeowner was acting in self defense as it appears he was. Under such duress, he was literally forced to kill somebody, or potentially be killed himself because of the direct actions of the defendant. Not much different than someone holding a gun to your head and forcing you to kill somebody. It’s not right to ask somebody to give up their own lives for legal reasons under either of these circumstances. Can you imagine in the later case, if it were a child or other family member. Somebody is going to watch somebody get murdered and most often when dealing with this level of anti-social behavior, both will be murdered so there are no witnesses. A child could potentially see their father get murdered and then themselves.

    I don’t know how true this is, but in an old western firm, a former Union soldiers shot his own wife, so she would not have to endure the inevitable rape, brutality, and eventual scalping/killing by the native Americans allegedly known for doing this. Try to justify the various potential ethical/unethical causes and affects in that scenario.

    In law each case can be so unique, that I really sometimes dislike all the regulatory statutes. We all know how difficult achieving equal justice under the law really is.

    I think it is a valid case and should place the defendant in prison for a longer period. How much more a deterrent it would really be, if any and what degree of murder it should be classified as, I will leave to you Attorneys.

  10. The legal question is whether a felon is liable under the felony murder rule when a co-felon is killed by an innocent party (such as the homeowner here) during the commission of the felony. Illinois apparently takes the “proximate cause” approach to the issue — on that theory, liability under the FM rule extends to any killing proximately caused by the felony, even if the person killed was a co-felon and the killer was the intended victim of the felony. Essentially, that means any death that is a foreseeable result of the felony (and home invasion, of course, is felonious conduct) can be charged against a co-felon. Of course that’s a completely separate question from whether or not the Felony Murder rule should exist or not. England abolished it long ago but it has been very popular here in the US.

  11. Felony murder is a terrible and harsh rule that subverts the very basic idea of a mens rea in criminal offenses. It has been abolished, I believe, in Michigan, and in England where it originated but thrives in other jurisdictions, such as Arizona:

    Obviously, I’m not a fan of the rule, and the case cited here is an extreme application of it. The rule never really made any sense except as a deterrent. But it violates the principle that a person should be criminally punished only for conduct that that is intentional or deliberate.

    1. My layman’s sense of the matter is that you have the better of the argument, here.

      My own bias is that the slice of the penal code governing trespass and burglary be recomposed to provide four degrees of each, with home invasions nominated as ‘burglary in the 1st degree’ and treated quite harshly. A stack of charges which included that, robbery or attempted robbery, and unlawful armament should suffice to put this person away for a good while.

    2. @ JMRJ “The rule never really made any sense except as a deterrent.”
      you say that like it’s a bad thing. Are you truly that dense – er, strike that, I meant ‘liberal’?

      1. Since I cannot edit, I’ll just add that I’m pleased to see several of the lawyers here confirming my comments about what I now know is referred to as ‘felony murder’. Thank you gentlemen.

        1. The criminal shooter is charged with murder and his partner is charged with felony murder. I think that is agreed on. If a police officer shoots and kills one of two or more criminals is that also considered felony murder? The policeman is not really committing murder and neither is the home owner so I wonder if the felony murder rule applies when the felon’s partner is killed in a lawful action.

      2. JMRJ is a recovering lawyer. He maintained a general practice in Rochester, NY which included criminal defense work among other things. His firm once represented yours truly (not in regard to a criminal complaint or a tort suit, btw). The Regan family (which included at least four attorneys) is decidedly non-liberal. Their viewpoints are not stereotyped, however.

      3. I’m certainly not what anyone would characterize as a liberal. And maybe I should have explained a little further. Deterrence as a rationale for punishment has its limits. The death penalty for petit larceny would surely be a deterrent. It would also be barbaric. That was the point.

  12. Our state’s law would exempt this man from First Degree Murder because the dead person was one of the participants in a first degree burglary.

    RCW 9A.32.030
    Murder in the first degree.
    (1) A person is guilty of murder in the first degree when:
    (a) With a premeditated intent to cause the death of another person, he or she causes the death of such person or of a third person; or
    (b) Under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life, he or she engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to any person, and thereby causes the death of a person; or
    (c) He or she commits or attempts to commit the crime of either (1) robbery in the first or second degree, (2) rape in the first or second degree, (3) burglary in the first degree, (4) arson in the first or second degree, or (5) kidnapping in the first or second degree, and in the course of or in furtherance of such crime or in immediate flight therefrom, he or she, or another participant, causes the death of a person other than one of the participants: Except that in any prosecution under this subdivision (1)(c) in which the defendant was not the only participant in the underlying crime, if established by the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence, it is a defense that the defendant:
    (i) Did not commit the homicidal act or in any way solicit, request, command, importune, cause, or aid the commission thereof; and
    (ii) Was not armed with a deadly weapon, or any instrument, article, or substance readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury; and
    (iii) Had no reasonable grounds to believe that any other participant was armed with such a weapon, instrument, article, or substance; and
    (iv) Had no reasonable grounds to believe that any other participant intended to engage in conduct likely to result in death or serious physical injury.
    (2) Murder in the first degree is a class A felony.

    I would think it might be a matter of transferred intent, and if this was truly applicable.

    It is rather curious that the defendant is charged with murder but the actual slayer was alleged to have committed excusable homicide and probably has an affirmative defence. Despite the permissible nature of the killing another is charged with a capital crime.

  13. When I was in law school in the 60’s in New York we were taught that any death during the commission of a felony was 1st degree murder for all those involved in committing the crime including the driver of the get away car or if the death resulted from a police officer shooting a bystander while trying to apprehend the criminals..

    1. We were taught likewise. Although I don’t practice in criminal law, I believe it was always referred to as the “felony-murder rule.” It is a very strong disincentive to participate in serious crime.

    2. Same here, but I went to law school in California in the 90s. I think it’s a fair charge. You work in concert with others to commit a home invasion, an especially dangerous crime where either the perps or the victims in the home are likely to be killed, you deserve to face the consequences of helping bring about that death.

  14. It probably feels good but I believe it a slippery slope. You ask an important question. And it is pervasive throughout the criminal code. And in my opinion, especially in the Federal criminal code.

    I suppose this decision to charge felony murder might be useful in getting a judicial decision on its efficacy.

    as I read my response, it occurs to me that I’m pretty much spit-balling.

  15. I think there aren’t many facts available in this article for an opinion. Much more detail would be needed for a jury to decide if this young man was responsible for his companion’s death. A group is usually more than two. Why was only this young man charged?

    1. “Much more detail would be needed for a jury to decide if this young man was responsible for his companion’s death.”
      Not really. He meets the elements spelled out in 9-1(a)(3) and nothing else is required. You might have an “out” in the “performing the act” component but most courts consider that the predicate felony itself.

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