Recently, the governor of California signed a law that narrows their version of the felony murder law. Similar to Texas’s law of parties, California allowed accomplices to murder to be punished even if they were not present when the murder occurred. In Texas, chapter 7.02 of the Texas Penal Code provides that a party is responsible for the conduct of another if, during the attempt to commit one felony, a party to the conspiracy commits another felony, then all parties to the conspiracy are guilty even if they had no intent to commit the other felony. Thus, for example, two individuals conspire to rob a bank, but agreed that no weapons would be used. Actor A, unbeknownst to Actor B, enters the bank with a gun while Actor B sits in the getaway car. While inside, Actor A shoots and kills someone. In Texas, Actor B would be responsible for the murder just as Actor A is responsible.
California’s SB 1437 changes California law so now only those who actually committed murder, intended to murder, or aided in the murder itself can prosecuted for murder.
Four states, Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio have abolished felony murder from its penal code. In 2017, a court in Massachusetts narrowed the application of felony murder and required that the actor must have the malice required for murder.