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Archive for January 13th, 2021

Capitol Hill Insurrection: Federal Murder Statute

With the death of a Capitol Hill police officer and several of the rioters at last week’s Capitol Hill insurrection, legal research on the crime of murder under the United States Code may have increased. 18 U.S.C.§ 1111 is the federal murder statute that states “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.”

Common law aspects of felony murder are incorporated into the federal statute, begging the question of whether the US Attorney for The District of Columbia will charge hundreds or more people with murder. The argument can be made that the actions of the insurrectionists fall under felony murder because they were committing treason (though Rebellion or Insurrection 18 U.S.C. § 2383 can be argued), attempting murder (several rioters were recorded shouting “Hang Mike Pence,” who was present in the Capitol at the time), kidnapping (several rioters were photographed with plastic zip-tie handcuffs), or burglary (Title 18, Chapter 103 of the US Code (Robbery and Burglary)).

Charges of murder or felony murder in the first degree carry the penalty of death or life imprisonment.