Could The Lee Case Be The First Felony-Murder Case Linked To The Protests?

download-5download-6Two months after a pawn shop was looted and burned in the Minneapolis, a charred body with “thermal injuries” was found in the ruins.  Montez Terrill Lee, 25, was videotaped torching the building and later celebrating the arson.  The question is whether his case may now be the first felony-murder charge to come out of the protests.  If the victim is confirmed as dying as a result of the arson allegedly set by Lee, it could be the first such case with the potential of the death penalty.

ATF investigators reportedly identified Lee from a video sent by an anonymous source showing a masked man pouring liquid from a metal container throughout the pawn shop. A second video shows Lee standing in front of the burning pawn shop saying “We’re going to burn this place down.”

Now two months later, police spokesman John Elder told the Star Tribune declared that “The body appears to have suffered thermal injury and we do have somebody charged with setting fire to that place.”

The question is whether the discovered might lead the Justice Department to bring the first felony-murder charge linked to the protests and rioting.

Lee is already charged with federal arson, a crime that is listed as a predicate under the felony murder provision in 18 U.S.C. 1111(a):

(a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing; or committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, any arson, escape, murder, kidnapping, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary, or robbery; or perpetrated as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child or children; or perpetrated from a premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the death of any human being other than him who is killed, is murder in the first degree.

Many states require that the predicate felony (here arson) must be separate from the death. The federal courts have reviewed Section 1111 and affirmed that intent to cause a death is not required:

“[t]he felony-murder rule provides that an unintended death resulting from the commission or attempted commission of certain felonies is murder in the first degree. The doctrine circumvents the normal mens rea requirements of first-degree murder and requires only an intent to commit the underlying felony.” United States v. Nichols, 169 F.3d 1255, 1272 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 934 (1999). Accordingly, the felony murder rule ‘eliminates the need for a finding of premeditation.'”

Thus, as noted by the Tenth Circuit in United States v. Pearson, 159 F.3d 480, 485 (10th Cir. 1998):


“There is an intended felony and an unintended homicide. The malice which plays a part in the commission of the felony is transferred by the law to the homicide. As a result of the fictional transfer, the homicide is deemed committed with malice; and a homicide with malice is, by definition, common-law murder.”

The police report clearly indicates that the authorities believe that this victim died as a result of the arson.

If he is now hit with a superseding indictment for felony murder, Lee could face the death penalty.  The Supreme Court in Enmund v. Florida, 458 U. S. 782 (1982), reversed the death sentence of a defendant convicted under Florida’s felony murder rule who was a getaway man. The Court found a broad societal consensus that the death penalty was disproportional to the crime of robbery-felony murder “in these circumstances.” Id. at 458 U. S. 788.  However, the Court ruled five years later in Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137 (1987), that felony murder was a lawful charge if the defendant was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with “reckless indifference to human life.” (Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137 (1987).

In this case, Lee could be charged with such reckless indifference in torching the pawn shop and then celebrating as it burned.

The defense could challenge the cause of death.  Moreover, the arson occurred at night when it could be assumed that no one was present in the store.  However, again, intent is not an element to the second offense.  Moreover, the victim may have come into the store later to try to put out the flames.  Yet, the death could still be caused by the arson.

Much will depend on the investigation and the autopsy.  If the thermal injuries were the cause of death, prosecutors would likely explore the superseding indictment on felony murder.

73 thoughts on “Could The Lee Case Be The First Felony-Murder Case Linked To The Protests?”

  1. Jonathan: When a white couple in an upscale private gated community in St. Louis point weapons at peaceful protesters you run to their defense. Now that the couple have been charged you will no doubt have more to say in their defense. But when a black man, Terrill Lee, is being charged with arson in the looting and burning of a pawn shop in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered by police, you suddenly change from a criminal defense attorney into a prosecutor, piling on charges making Lee subject to the death penalty. And you almost invite your good friend AG Barr to bring felony-murder charges against Lee because the body found inside the pawn shop has been deemed due to the arson. You say the Lee case would “bring the first felony-murder charge linked to the protests and rioting”. “Linked” is a euphemism for trying to portray all the mostly peaceful protesters around the country as criminals. In your posts you invariably refer to protesters as a “mob” This is music to Trump’s ears! In sending his storm troopers into Portland Trump claims he is doing this to put down the “dangerous mobs”. Just as Hitler sent his SA storm troopers into German cities to create chaos to further his political ambitions Trump’s actions in Portland are intended to create fear among white “law and order” suburban voters that he is the only person standing between them and anarchy. Trump is following the age-old practice of dictators–divide and rule through fear. In your own way you are contributing to this effort.

    1. Dennis McIntyre – those were not “peaceful protesters” in St, Louis, they were riotous trespassers who threatened the couple, their dog and their home.

      1. Oh, they did not. The protester group was heading down the street to the Mayor’s house. They were all just passing by, and when they saw the armed couple, they began gesturing, some obscenely. The wealthy Trump supporters were exhibiting the kind of paranoia rich folks do when they see the hoi polloi.

    2. When a white couple in an upscale private gated community in St. Louis point weapons at peaceful protesters you run to their defense.

      Repeat after me: private, gated community. Now what does that mean to you? Public thoroughfare? Or does it mean, not for public access and gated to control access to authorized residents only? Those peaceful protesters disabled their legal protester status the moment they broke down the gate and accessed this private community. They don’t re-enable that status by peacefully assembling in front of one of the private residences any more than if someone broke into a home and then decided to take a nap on the couch. Using your logic, if I sucker-punched you in the face, I should not be arrested for assault because I gave you a hand up off the ground. Additionally, those so called peaceful protesters were in fact communicating threats to the residents. Would you come to the defense of my above home intruder if they verbally threatened the homeowner? Would you defend the intruder if the homeowner was holding a legal firearm and threatening the intruder to leave or else? Are you so blinded by your political worldview that you would support anarchy, looting, arson, assault, murder, all for political power? If that is your position, then you’re the very definition of a domestic terrorist.

      1. Why does physically tearing down a wrought iron gate, and allegedly threatening to kill the couple, and their dog, and burn their house down make it a peaceful protest?

        If Trump supporters had done this, the media would not have rushed to call them innocent and peaceful.

        1. Why does physically tearing down a wrought iron gate, and allegedly threatening to kill the couple, and their dog, and burn their house down make it a peaceful protest?

          When the artifice is necessary to get what you want, which is to injure and intimidate the opposition. Eventually, there will be blood.

        2. Why does…

          Apparently because they didn’t carry out their threats. Even if they had, they would’ve been deemed justified by the Left due to the threat of harm by the radical, gun-toting homeowners.

          If Trump supporters had done this, the media would not have rushed to call them innocent and peaceful.

          Had the Trump supporters held a flag waving fundraiser for the community outside the gates, they would have been labeled a mob of racists, exercising their white privilege.

      2. The protesters were on their way to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house. They stayed on the street pavement, and never displayed any firearms. The paranoid rich McCloskeys were the ones who grabbed firearms and pointed them at the protesters. The jeers and threats by the protesters were in response to the couple’s paranoia. Since when are a group of protesters on a street considered “intruders”? Because they’re the poor unwashed masses, the hoi polloi?

        BTW, from what I’ve seen in Portland, the anarchy, looting, arson, assault, maiming (with ONE apparent murder, the alleged perp summarily executed by U.S. Marshals Service in WA state) has been vigilante militia wannabes, Boogaloo Bois, Joey Gibson’s Proud Boys, and Trump’s deputized mercenary Fed agents.

        1. Since when are a group of protesters on a street considered “intruders”?

          The nanosecond they violated the McCloskey’s private property rights and refused to leave. If you don’t agree with that most basic of American principles, then further conversation is pointless.


      Michelle Malkin on how the police stand by and let the BLM mob physically attack her and others at a ‘blue lives matter” rally



      just like the crook let out of jail 230 times. the system now protects the wolves from the sheep! and not vice versa!

      government is failing and losing its legitimacy before our eyes

      1. That probably happened because, to white cops, Michelle Malkin is an “other” (her parents are Filipino immigrants). I’d not be surprised that she doesn’t tell her fans how many times she’s been told to “go back where you came from!”

  2. Meanwhile, as we await possible federal murder charges against one of rioters, local prosecutors in Minneapolis are hard at work filing new charges against Derek Chauvin. According to the WSJ, Chauvin and his wife have been charged for felony tax evasion. They allege that Chauvin didn’t report the income from his night job as a bouncer. Like every bouncer at every club in the history of the planet.

    The tax investigation started shortly after Chauvin was arrested and charged in the Floyd case. As the WSJ so delicately puts it, ‘it wasn’t immediately clear what initiated the investigation.’ Imran Ali, the county’s criminal division assistant chief who is co-prosecuting the case, said the information came to the attention of the local tax department, but otherwise declined to comment as to who or why.

    No, we know exactly what is going on.

    1. Was he paid in cash off the books? And if he was, who else employed at that club is being investigated?

  3. Family of the dead person should hire a monster to kill the arsonist. Burn him to death.

  4. Can the family of the arson victim sue the city for the “stand down” order which prohibited police from responding to the riot which led to the arson and the death?

  5. PREDICTION: Released OR due to COVID. After 2 years of continuances, plea entered to a single count of disturbing the peace, 90 day jail sentence, but released after 15 days due to overcrowding.

    1. He will be released to Seth Warner at his nail salon in West Hollywood to teach him how to do nails for LGBTQEIEIO_WTF

      Seth is already lubricating about the prospect of Montez’s BBC on the DL wif sum special benjumins and git his phat booty whipped by Montez’s dreadlocks

      1. Regarding this comment above, it seems to be part of an odd trend on this blog where peculiar smears are employed by a resident goon.

      2. Looks like the harassment campaign against Seth continues.

        Debate his opinions, but resorting to this continued, ugly, personal obsession is wrong. Please stop doing this.

        Everyone should feel welcome to comment here, whether any of us agree with them or not.

        1. Everyone should feel welcome to comment here, whether any of us agree with them or not.

          Peter’s ‘comments’ are 90% text wall imported from the Sulzberger and Bezos Birdcage Liners. He ought to try for some original content.

        2. Agreed. The attack on Seth is ridiculous. This place itself is pretty beyond ridiculous. Turley wants a particular sort for this blog and i guess he’s gotten them.

  6. Lock him up and throw away the key. The police chief of Dallas had the most lucid approach so far: She supports peaceful protests but anyone who breaks the law goes to jail. When you stop them at vandalism, they don’t get to murder. When you stop them at Poland, they don’t get to the rest of Europe. When you stop them at Hong Kong, your kids don’t have to learn Chinese. It’s really not that hard a concept to understand. It’s all very well and good to debate the fine points of this case from a legal perspective but we are talking about someone who burned to death trying to protect their store while the mayor issued stand down orders. It should never have gotten that far and it must never go that far again. Period.

    1. Churchill’s likely biggest error, one that likely meets the definition of criminal negligence, was in publicly stating that England would stop Germany if Germany invaded Poland, while Churchill simultaneously knew 100% without any doubt, that England still suffered financially and militarily from WW1, and could not fulfill it’s contract to stop Hitler under any circumstance.

      Subsequent to Churchill’s statement, Poland’s war mongering military and government took England’s guarantee to heart, and used the offer as a club on Hitler, refusing to cooperate and give one inch, even when Hitler’s demands were primarily only to get back some of the land taken from Germany as punishment for WW1 at the Treaty of Versailles.

      WW2 was avoidable, and is largely Churchill’s fault. WW2 ended the British Empire, and directly brought England to it’s knees financially, for which England still suffers. All this explains why Brits eventually rejected Churchill publicly, and to this day he is largely still hated there for causing the avoidable war.

      1. Hitler’s goal was world domination. My relatives fought against the Nazis. Freeing people from concentration camps affected everyone as word spread.

        I am glad we stopped him cold, and only wish it was done one day, one year, or 5 years earlier.

        The Brits don’t wish Hitler was allowed to murder in peace. The Poles still feel keenly about the Western Betrayal, but not because they wish Hitler was allowed to go his merry way. Churchill also valued the Soviets’ contributions above Poland’s.

        1. Hitler’s goal was world domination.

          If you say so. As far as I can see, he wanted the Germanophone areas of Europe and a swath of Slavic territory roughly coterminous with Poland, White Russia, and the Ukraine, with other parts of Europe as deferential or subservient client states.

  7. A murder charge is completely wrong in this instance. Mr. Lee was quite obviously engaging in peaceful arson–a guaranteed right that is implied in the First Amendment’s speech and assemblage clauses. This is just another clear case of the draconian, authoritative tyranny of the Bad Orange Man. I demand that Bill Barr, Donald Trump, and that guy from Michigan–you know, the guy with that thing–all immediately resign, are prosecuted, killed, banished to Papua New Guinea for 127 years and then,be brought back to the US and be killed 42 more times!

    Who’s with me? If you don’t agree with me, you’re complicit and should be killed four times. In a row. Shame on you for supporting fascism.

      1. OLLY – The Babylon Bee brought their A+ game this week. 😉

  8. First degree manslaughter=20 years no parole, add to that arson=20 years no parole, add to that a few other charges and put the mutt away for the rest of his life. Murder would just be another BS charge like Zimmerman/Martin. The scum, like Zimmerman, would walk.

  9. No prosecution! He is studying to be a brain surgeon and volunteers at the soup kitchen every Wednesday. (Soup is delicious, by the way.)

  10. Prof. Turley: I’m sure you have researched the applicable law accurately. But I say: leave the guy (Montez Terrill Lee) alone. There are MANY mitigating factors that suggest prosecution would be unwise:

    (a) The protest itself was “mostly peaceful.”

    (b) Lee comes from a broken household. Perhaps he had heard a rumor that his absent father was hiding in the store, and in an reckless moment was triggered by that thought and torched the store in an unsuccessful effort to flush out his wayward pater. (For those of you in Rio Linda — or any Democrat-run city — “pater” is the Latin term for “father” often used by the upper classes (Republcans, y’all).)

    (c) Perhaps he heard a rumor that the “real killer” of Nicole Brown Simpson was holed out in the store.

    (d) Lee has no other way to express his anti-Trump views — he cannot vote because he lacks the funds to get to a voting registrar (or “physician,” as Intermittently-Sentient Joe would say).

    (e) The guy in the store might have been infected by COVID-19, and Lee’s wish was to spare him a lengthy, painful death.

    (f) He didn’t know better. With a mother on crack, and his educators too busy explaining that this nation was founded on slavery (though omitting the fact that slavery worldwide still thrives — see he had never been provided a moral grounding in his formative years.

    (g) It could be that he was “bummed out” with the knowledge that the entire American construct is systematically-infused with racism.

    1. arthurjmaurello – you lay out a very fine defense for young Mr. Lee. The only thing you missed is that he is an orphan.

    2. Definitely charge this dude, your argument is dumb. A man who was rapped as a child is a victim, if that man grows up and rapes a child he is still guilty. Tragic but still guilty.

  11. If this is felony murder they should put him away for many years.

    I would prefer a quick plea deal for a shorter incaceration so the news goes out that one goes to jail for bad actions. I would do the same for other individuals. The quicker it is known people are going to jail for significant lengths of time the quicker the rioters will learn to control themselves.

    1. Federal prosecutors should agree only to life with no parole in any plea deal!

      1. no, they should get all the names of his associates, assuming there is a lot, and use him in about 20 different trials against various other tangos and racketeers, and then, let him pull 20 years or so. good luck surviving jail once he’s a notorious snitch, but that’s gonna be his problem

  12. I believe the title of JT’s piece is wrong — clearly “Protests” should be changed to “Riots.”

    1. He can not do that or else the Left wing paid trolls on here will take offense and riot. Then they will dox Professor Turly and threaten his family.

  13. It’s not like he doxed anyone like the NYT was threatening to do to Tucker Carlson after selling his home 2 years ago when Left wing anarchists were threatening to kill his family

    “The Fox News host recalled November 2018, when a group organized by the Antifa group Smash Racism DC doxxed his former address, then sent a mob to his home while he was at work and his wife was home alone.

    “They vandalized our home,” Carlson said. “They threatened my wife. She called 911 while hiding in a closet. A few weeks later they showed up again at our house. For the next year, they sent letters to our home threatening to kill us. We tried to ignore it. It felt cowardly to sell our home and leave. We raised our kids there in the neighborhood and we loved it. But in the end, that’s what we did. We have four children. It just wasn’t worth it.”

    “But The New York Times followed us,” Carlson continued. “The paper has assigned a political activist called Murray Carpenter to write a story about where we are now. They’ve hired a photographer called Tristan Spinski to take pictures. Their story about where we live is slated to run the paper this week.”

  14. As an item of somewhat related interest, the Supreme Court of Canada invalidated the felony-murder rule in a 1987 case called Vailliancourt out of normally peaceful and law-abiding Prince Edward Island. The majority found the rule offensive to the guarantees of fundamental justice and/or presumption of innocence under the Charter of Rights. The lone dissent disagreed stating the rule was not “fundamental”, having been a principle of common law for centuries. It also found no infirmity against the presumption of innocence because the prosecution was still required to prove the underlying elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. If Mr. Lee had committed this offence some 300 miles north in Fort Frances,ON,he would probably be facing a charge of manslaughter at worst.

    1. Note Pierre Trudeau was a law professor. The odious ‘Charter of Rights’ is just a hook for Canada’s elite bar to do what it felt like, because they’re awful people.

  15. It is Time to Send a Very Strong Message to the rioters, BLM, Antifa, and their financial backers. If this person is guilty of this death then throw the book at him and also go after others who participated directly and indirectly.

    Time to stand up and shut these rioters and etc. down

    1. Do you really think that Antifa is an organized group? And who, praytell, do you believe to be the “financial backers of “the rioters,” or BLM, or Antifa, for that matter?

      1. Anon – Soros just said he was dropping $220 M to help these guys out. And Chase or somebody said they were giving BLM 150 M.

        1. That is MORE $$ from Soros. He and/or like-minded people paid for the buses, lodging, food, “supplies” for rioting, etc. for the anarchists in Minneapolis and elsewhere.

      2. They all seem to wear coordinated outfits and behave in the same manner with bails quickly paid etc. To think that is random is to be willfully ignorant, something the left is master of.

        1. Remember that Biden’s staff and supporters (many, “celebrities” ) contributed to a huge fund for bail for the criminals there.

      3. anon

        antifa is a collective of like minded people who are in constant covert contact by their various talking channels on the internet

        they deliberately avoid incorporation as a legal entity because they plan criminal acts and want to hide the ill gotten gains their “protest” activities reap

        it is in short, a RACKETEER INFLUENCED CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION and should be prosecuted with RICO

        they do liase with organized groups such as BLM

        here is evidence of their organized criminal activity, destruction of public property and felonious assault and battery of 49 or more police officers in Chicago last friday:

        watch the organized mob using “tortoise” tactics, the organized mob activity is clearly delineated by the police superintendent

        well that was a good presser., now, after that, 14 more chicagoans were shot, in an attack on a funeral (a funeral with a large number of attendees, which is llegal, but allowed for black folks, because George Floyd) we also know that attacks on funerals are a drive by tactic of gangs. in short, more black on black crime, which is at a record level in Chicago, even as they all blame white “racism” as if “racism” was out there forcing black men to shoot each other on the streets.

        in short, Chicago, like other cities, is sinking into anarchy. while fools pretend this is not a deliberate planned campaign of destabilization by enemies of law order and our nation.

  16. Unless they can prove death before the fire, I think Lee is going to be on the hook for this. However, it is Minneapolis.

    1. The only hope for the “perp” is insufficient evidence of his identity, possibly.

    2. Prof. Turley did state “federal arson” as the specification.and that Lee celebrated the offense. I’d say the elements are there for a felony murder count.

      1. loupgarous – they are treating it as murder, however, I do not think the autopsy has been done. Maybe Lee will bring in a specialist as well to do a second autopsy.

    3. But … this is in the US District Court — no the state court system with state prosecutors.

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