House Committee Holding Subject Matter Hearing on Felony-Murder Reform

House Committee Holding Subject Matter Hearing on Felony-Murder Reform

Contacts: Marshan Allen, (708) 483-7737; Chairman Justin Slaughter, (217) 782-0010

Illinois’ Felony-Murder Rule Harms Individuals, Families, & Communities

SPRINGFIELD-The Judiciary – Criminal Law Committee chaired by Representative Justin Slaughter is holding a subject matter hearing on Wednesday, November 13 at 9 a.m. in D-1 of the Stratton Building to discuss Illinois’ felony-murder law. This is the first legislative reaction to the August “Lake County Five” case. In that case, five Chicago teenagers were charged with first-degree murder after a homeowner shot and killed a sixth teenager while the youth were attempting to steal an automobile.

Illinois has one of the broadest felony-murder statutes in the country. The law allows a person to be charged and convicted of first-degree murder even if they did not kill or intend to kill anyone. A felony-murder conviction carries a minimum sentence of 20 years and a possible maximum sentence of natural life.

HB1615, sponsored by Chairman Slaughter, would amend the law to:

  • Ensure individuals who do not personally inflict or plan to inflict an injury during the course of a felony will not be charged with first-degree murder; and,
  • Ensure someone is truly culpable for murder if they are to be given our state’s harshest possible punishment.

Senator Robert Peters has filed identical legislation in the Senate, SB2292.

On Wednesday, people directly affected by the felony-murder rule will share their stories.

Youthful offenders are disproportionately burdened by the current felony-murder rule, as they are more likely to act in groups and are more susceptible to peer pressure. The part of the brain that assesses risk is among the last to form.

In the Lake County case, prosecutors charged the teenagers with the murder of their own family member and friend—despite none of them having pulled the trigger. While we’re grateful the charges were dropped, it’s time to make sure this part of the law can’t be used to overcharge others.

When children or young adults are charged with felony-murder, they are branded “violent offenders” for life and are subject to adult court, adult prison sentences, and the same sentencing range as the person who “pulled the trigger.” Once convicted, these people have no ability to demonstrate rehabilitation and seek shorter sentences. Research has proven long sentences don’t deter crime. They don’t make our communities safer.

Supporters of HB1615

ACLU of Illinois 

Cabrini Green Legal Aid

Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Chicago Community Bond Fund

Chicago Urban League

Chicago Council of Lawyers

John Howard Association

Justice Advisory Council

Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender

League of Women Voters of Illinois

Moms United Against Violence & Incarceration

Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation

Restore Justice Illinois 

Shriver Center on Poverty Law

Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities

Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois

Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois

Women’s Justice Institute

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Restore Justice advocates for fairness, humanity, and compassion throughout the Illinois criminal justice system, with a primary focus on those affected by extreme sentences imposed on our youth.  We create and support policies that allow those who are rehabilitated to go home, and that ensure those incarcerated, their families, and victim families have opportunities for healing and justice. We engage currently and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, victims and their families, communities, and concerned Illinoisans in advocacy and service within the criminal justice system.

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