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Felony Murder Appeal Dies in US Supreme Court

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The Illinois law that makes liable those who cause another’s death in the commission of a forcible crime stands after the US Supreme Court declined to hear the petition of a Chicago man convicted of so-called felony murder. The decision by justices at the nation’s highest court means that John Givens will continue to serve out the 20-year sentence he received in connection with a 2012 electronics store robbery on the Southwest Side. David Strong was killed in a hail of police gunfire as he, Givens and Leland Dudley tried to escape in a van. Dudley also appealed the charge that earned him a 25-year stretch.

Givens hung his petition on the proximate cause codicil of the law, contending that relieving prosecutors from demonstrating intent is a violation of the right to due process. And that the charge presumes guilt of the felony demanded by its application. He also cited the Eighth Amendment in questioning the validity of equating manslaughter with criminal intent. Givens appealed his sentence at state level in part on police use of excessive force, failing with justices in district court and at the Illinois Supreme Court. Bills have been introduced in both houses of the state Legislature the would rein in the statute, the latest of which came after five Chicago teens were initially charged after a Lake County homeowner killed a sixth in an attempted car break-in.