Question: My nephew was charged with second degree murder, but he didn’t do it. He is only 15 years old. He was with a group of boys, some of them are older, and the older boys decided to rob someone. One of the older boys pulled a gun on a person. My nephew said the person wouldn’t give the older boy his wallet, and the boy got mad and shot the person. How can he be charged with murder when he didn’t even have the gun? What is going to happen to him? Does he go to juvenile court because he is only 15?
Answer: Pursuant to Pennsylvania criminal law, an individual can be charged with second degree murder or felony murder when a death results during the commission of a felony. The individual can be charged with felony murder regardless of whether they actually shot the victim. As long as they are a co-conspirator to the felony, they will be charged with felony murder if a death results.
In your nephew’s case, a robbery (felony) was taking place when the victim was shot. He may be tried as an adult even though he is only 15. Juveniles can be charged as an adult for certain cases, such as gun point robberies and homicides.
If he was a co-conspirator, i.e., talked and planned the robbery with the other boys, under the law, he will likely be found guilty at trial for felony murder because the death happened during the commission of a robbery. A conviction of felony murder results in a life sentence without parole. However, because your nephew is a minor, he cannot be sentenced to a life sentence without having a sentencing hearing before the judge.
Related: Pennsylvania Murder Charges – When Juveniles Are Charged as Adults
In order to be found guilty of conspiracy, there must be enough evidence. Your nephew can defend the charge of conspiracy by arguing that he did not actually engage in the conspiracy. One of the defenses is that he had no intent to commit the robbery. If he had no intent, he may argue that there was never any real criminal plan.
It is best that your nephew talks to an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who can explain the law to him and your family. An experienced criminal lawyer will be able to present the best defense for your nephew.