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His Friend Asked To Borrow His Car, He Said Okay - That Decision Landed Him In Jail For The Rest Of His Life

Back in March of 2003, the morning after a loud, late party, a hungover 20-year-old named Ryan Holle loaned his Chevrolet Metro to a friend. That decision, according to prosecutors, meant he was guilty of murder.

It seems the “friend” drove himself and three men to the home of a marijuana dealer, planning to steal a safe full of cash. But the burglary turned violent, and the dealer’s 18-year-old daughter ended up being killed.

Holle was a mile and a half away asleep at his home, but prosecutors say that did not matter.

He was convicted under the American legal doctrine that makes accomplices equally liable as the actual killer for murders during felonies such as burglaries, rapes and robberies.

Holle, who had given the police a series of statements suggesting some knowledge about the burglary, was then convicted of first-degree murder and given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

This legal doctrine was once a part of English common law, but Parliament abolished the inhumane rule in 1957.

India and other common law countries have also gotten rid of this backwards legal doctrine. The Canadian Supreme Court abolished felony murder liability for accomplices almost three decades ago, noting it was against “the principle that punishment must be proportionate to the moral blameworthiness of the offender.”

“The view in Europe,” notes James Q. Whitman, a professor of comparative law at Yale, “is that we hold people responsible for their own acts and not the acts of others.”

That said, prosecutors and victims’ rights groups in the US argue that punishing accomplices as though they were killers is appropriate.

“The felony murder rule serves important interests,” David Rimmer, the prosecutor in the Holle case, claims, “because it holds all persons responsible for the actions of each other if they are all participating in the same crime.”

The marijuana dealer, Terry Snyder, whose teen daughter Jessica was the victim in Holle’s case, says he believes Holle’s conduct was as blameworthy as that of the man that actually killed her.

“It never would have happened unless Ryan Holle had lent the car,” Snyder argued. “It was as good as if he was there.”

Source: NY Times
Photo: AWM

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