Two months after a pawn shop in Minneapolis was ransacked and burned, a charred body with "thermal injuries" was found in the ruins. Montez Terrill Lee, 25, was videotaped when he set fire to the building and later celebrated the arson. The question is whether his case is the first crime-related charge that has emerged from the protests. If the victim is confirmed to be dying The arson allegedly committed by Lee could be the first such case with the potential for capital punishment.
ATF investigators reportedly identified Lee from a video sent by an anonymous source showing a masked man pouring liquid from a metal container at the pawnshop. A second video shows Lee standing in front of the burning pawnshop and saying: "We will burn this place down."
Now, two months later, police spokesman John Elder told the Star Tribune: "The body appears to have suffered a thermal injury and we have someone accused of setting this place on fire."
The question is whether the discoveries could induce the Justice Department to file the first crime-related charges related to protests and unrest.
Lee has already been charged with federal arson, a crime listed in 18 states as a crime-murder provision. 1111 (a):
(a) Murder is the illegal killing of a person on purpose. Any murder committed by poison lies in wait or any other type of willful, willful, malicious and willful killing; or committed while exercising or attempting to commit something any arsonFlight, murder, kidnapping, betrayal, espionage, sabotage, aggravated sexual or sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary or robbery; or committed as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child or children; or to be committed by an intentional plan that illegally and maliciously causes the death of someone other than the person being killed is first-degree murder.
Many states require that the predicate crime (here arson) be separated from death. The federal courts have examined § 1111 and confirmed that the intention to cause death is not necessary:
“(T) The crime murder rule stipulates that an unintentional death resulting from the commission or attempt to commit certain crimes is first-degree murder. The doctrine bypasses men's normal requirements for first degree murder and only requires intent to commit the underlying crime. “United States v Nichols, 169 F.3d 1255, 1272 (10th Cir.), Cert. denied, 528, US 934 (1999). Accordingly, the crime murder rule eliminates “the need for a premeditated finding”.
As noted by the United States Tenth Circuit v. Pearson, 159 F.3d 480, 485 (10th Cir. 1998):
"There is an intended crime and an accidental murder. The wickedness involved in committing the crime is legally transferred to murder. As a result of the fictitious transfer, the murder is considered to have been malicious; and a wicked murder is, by definition, a common law murder. "
The police report clearly shows that the authorities believe that the victim has died as a result of the arson attack.
If he is hit by a replacement crime-murder charge, Lee could face the death penalty. The Supreme Court in Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782 (1982), overturned the death sentence of a defendant who had been convicted under Florida's crime murder rule and was a refugee. The Court found a broad social consensus that the death penalty "under these circumstances" is disproportionate to the crime of robbery. I would. 458 US 788. However, the court ruled five years later in Tison v. Arizona, 481 US 137 (1987) that crime murder is a lawful charge if the suspect is a major participant in the underlying crime and acts with "ruthless indifference" to human life. "(Tison v. Arizona, 481, US 137 (1987).
In this case, Lee could be charged with such ruthless indifference, setting the pawnshop on fire and then celebrating when it burned.
Defense could challenge the cause of death. In addition, the arson occurred at night when it could be assumed that no one was present in the shop. However, intent is again not an element of the second crime. In addition, the victim may have come to the store later to try to extinguish the flames. Nevertheless, the arson could cause death.
Much will depend on the exam and autopsy. If the thermal injuries were the cause of death, prosecutors would likely investigate the criminal crime's replacement charge.