“Attempted Felony Murder” not a crime under Ohio law

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last week that attempted felony murder is not a crime under Ohio law, Court News Ohio reports. The case at issue was State v. Nolan, a 2012 case from Portage County, in which the defendant, Bobby Nolan, was found guilty of attempted felony murder, felonious assault, and possessing a firearm while under a disability. The 11th District Court of Appeals found that Nolan could not be found guilty of attempted felony murder, citing it as a "logical impossibility." The state appealed this decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, which affirmed the court of appeals in a unanimous decision, penned by Justice Pfeifer.

The Court evaluated the language of Ohio's "attempt" statute (R.C. 2923.02) and the felony murder statute (R.C. 2903.02(B)) and concluded that Ohio law does not provide for the crime of attempted felony murder. The Court focused on the fact that the "attempt" statute requires a person to act purposely or knowingly to commit an attempt offense, but that the felony murder statute essentially imposes strict liability on the perpetrator of a felony that results in a death. "Felony murder" involves a death that is caused by the commission of another violent felony, but does not have the same required mental state as traditional murder charges. Justice Pfeifer wrote of the felony murder statute, "Though intent to commit the predicate felony is required, intent to kill is not."

In reaching this decision, the Court distinguished the case of State v. Williams, which the state relied on to support its position in defense of "attempted felony murder" as a viable crime. The Court stated that the majority opinion in that case did not use the terms attempted felony murder or consider its viability as a crime, and that the only mention of attempted felony murder came in the dissent, where it was also not analyzed.

The Court concluded the case with a question and swiftly provided the answer, "Can a person be guilty of attempting to cause an unintended death? We conclude that the court of appeals correctly determined that it is impossible to purposely or knowingly cause an unintended death. Accordingly, we hold that attempted felony murder is not a cognizable crime in Ohio."