The Felony Murder Rule: The Ryan Holle Case

Wednesday, 16. April 2014

Ryan HolleFew people have sympathy for convicted murderers, and rightly so, but you may feel differently after hearing the story of Ryan Holle, who was convicted of murder at the age of 21.

What’s unique about Holle’s case is that the prosecution fully admits that the 21-year-old was sleeping, miles away from the incident, when the killing occurred. So why was Holle sentenced to life in prison for murder? Because of an outdated law called the Felony Murder Law.

Holle’s Role

In the early morning hours of March 10, 2003, Holle was hanging with some friends after a night out partying. Holle decided he wanted to call it a night and go to bed, but his buddies had other ideas. William Allen Jr., Holle’s housemate, asked if he could borrow the 21-year-old’s car. Having no need for it since he was about to turn in for the night, Holle handed his housemate the keys.

Allen and three associates drove to the house of a well-known drug dealer a few miles away. They knew the dealer had a safe in her house, and they planned to rob it. The group went inside the house and threatened the woman and her family. During the robbery, one of the men, Charles Miller Jr., bludgeoned the drug dealer’s 18-year-old daughter to death with a shotgun he found inside the house. The group made off with a pound of marijuana and $1,425.

The Felony Murder Rule

Not surprisingly, the men were arrested for the crime shortly thereafter. What was surprising was the fact that authorities also arrested Holle, despite witness reports that he was not at the scene when the crime took place. Police decided to charge Holle with first-degree murder under a legal doctrine known as the Felony Murder Rule, which states:

Anybody who participates in a felony offense is criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of that felony. 

In other words, because Holle lent his car to his friend, which they then used to commit a felony, the prosecution merely needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Holle knew his friends were going to use his car to aid in a felony offense.

Holle gave a statement to police in which he seemed to admit to knowing that his friends were going to go commit a robbery, and as the prosecutor explained during trial, “No car, no murder.”

Holle changed his stance in an interview in 2007, saying he “honestly thought they were going to get food,” adding that he didn’t think they were serious about the robbery plans.

“When they mentioned what as going on, I thought it was a joke,” he said.

They jury didn’t see it Holle’s way, and he received the same sentence as the four men at the scene of the crime – Life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Is It Justice?

It’s worth noting that the wife/drug dealer was sentenced to three years in prison for marijuana possession, but when you compare her misdeeds to those of Holle, is it really fair?

As the father pointed out during the trial, “It never would have happened unless Ryan Holle had lent the car,” but can’t the same be said about the mother? If she hadn’t been a known drug dealer with a stash of marijuana and cash, the crime would never have occurred. She got three years, but Holle could easily spend over 50 years behind bars.

Where is the justice in that?

Several Students Arrested in Dinkytown Riot

Monday, 14. April 2014

Dinkytown riot19 people, including some University of Minnesota students, were arrested Saturday in Dinkytown after a riot broke out following Minnesota’s loss in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game. 

The chaos erupted just minutes after the Gophers fell to Union College by a score of 7-4, a final tally that few saw coming when you consider Minnesota entered the Frozen Four as the odds on favorite to win the championship. Many people made their way to Dinkytown in hopes of celebrating a championship in the streets, and they didn’t take too kindly to being denied the opportunity.

The crowd began throwing rocks and beer bottles at a gathering of officers who had been dispatched to quell the impending riot. Officers responded by firing pepper spray, rubber pellets and beanbags into the crowd. One recent grad said Dinkytown “felt like a war zone.”

“There shouldn’t be riots right now. We didn’t even win,” said 22-year-old Austin Duket.

James Anderson, who rooms with Duket, said students were looking for a reason to party, and the prospect of rioting – win or lose – was already a forgone conclusion before the game.

“After Thursday, (the riots) were an event. People were like, ‘You guys want to go to the riot on Saturday?’”

Although the full arrest tally is unknown, the police scanner reported that numerous individuals were arrested for “assaultive behavior.” Officers also responded to two reports of arson and several cases of property damage, although it’s uncertain how many arrests were made in connection with those crimes.

Avery Appelman comments

As a huge hockey fan, it pains me that the Gophers fell just short of the ultimate goal, but destructive rioting is the wrong way to handle a loss. I’ve never understood why destroying public or private property in the wake of a sporting event made someone feel better.

These students could face heavy fines, and that’s just the beginning. If they have any priors, if they caused a large amount of damage, or if they were the ones who started the fires, they could face jail time. Thankfully, it doesn’t sound as if any pedestrians or officers were seriously injured during the fracas.

If you need to physically express yourself following a loss, go for a run or hit the punching bag at the gym. If you can’t channel your emotions, you might be looking for a lawyer in the near future.

Related source: Pioneer Press.

Minnesota Passes Stronger Anti-Bullying Law

Thursday, 10. April 2014

Minnesota Anti-Bullying BillGovernor Mark Dayton signed a new anti-bullying measure into law on Wednesday in hopes of better protecting Minnesota students who are exposed to abusive behaviors at school. 

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act will require schools to:

  • Track and investigate cases of bullying; and
  • Offer staff training on bullying-prevention techniques.

In addition to strengthening prevention and awareness techniques, the bill also clearly defines bullying as any action that causes physical harm, the fear of physical harm, or “constitutes intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

The previous law only stated that school districts needed to have some sort of anti-bullying procedure in place. Governor Dayton believes the new bill will help keep students safer.

“Minnesota’s schools should be safe and supportive places for everyone,” said Dayton. “This anti-bullying legislation will make it very clear that bullying is not to be allowed in our schools.

Not All in Favor

While most want to find a solution to the bullying problem that appears to be more prevalent in today’s digital age, some legislators believe this bill isn’t the answer. The bill made it through both the House and the Senate by a narrow margin, passing by votes of 69-63 and 36-31 respectively, and some legislators vocalized their concerns, calling the bill too costly, restrictive to free speech, and a move “more about a social agenda than preventing bullying,” said Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester.

A portion of the bill that caused major contention was a clause that specifically protected students from being teased about their gender identity or sexual orientation. Some opponents felt that it created a special protection for some, while others felt like it could force districts to teach students about sexual identity at too young an age.

Avery Appelman comments

The biggest issue with bullying these days is that, because of the rise of the Internet, it now becomes a 24/7 “game” for some of the bullies. Back in the day, you only had to worry about a bully in the hallway or in 5th period; Nowadays, a bully or a group of teens can harass someone all hours of the day through social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Ask.FM, etc.

I think it would be very helpful to teach children about the dangers and problems of electronic communication at a young age, and reinforce those issues throughout their primary education. We need to teach children that there is always an electronic trial, be it a snide comment telling a student to hurt himself or a risqué photo sent through text.

We’ll never eradicate bullying, but I think attacking the problem at the source – the kids – is a better place to start.

Related source: Star-Tribune, Bring Me The News

9-Month-Old Baby Accused of Attempted Murder

Wednesday, 9. April 2014

Baby Accused of MurderWhile most 9-month-olds are still working on saying their first word, a Pakistani toddler has been charged with attempted murder in a case that points out a number of shortcomings in the country’s legal system. 

Mohammed Musa, not even a year old, has been charged with attempted murder along with his father and other family members for his role in throwing rocks at gas company officials.

Musa wept during a court appearance last week, although the crying was most likely caused by teething, not because he could comprehend the severity of the charges levied against him. He also drank from a bottle while in court.

“Everyone in the court was saying, ‘How can such a small child be implicated in any case?’ What kind of police do we have?” said grandfather Muhammad Yasin.

Direct Contradiction

The charges are extremely questionable when you consider that Pakistan recently increased the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven years to 12 in 2013.

The grandfather believes the charges are all part of an elaborate move to get the accused evicted from their property.

“The police and gas company officials came without any notice and started removing gas meters from houses,” said Yasin. “Residents started protesting and blocked the road but ended the protest when senior police officers arrived in the area and assured them that no injustice would be done. But later we found out that cases have been filed against us.”

Judge Shows Some Sense

Judge Rafaqat Ali Qamar ordered the criminal inspector to be suspended and granted the child bail, but he added that the child will have to appear at a scheduled hearing on April 12.

“The court should have simply referred the minor’s case to the High Court to drop the charges against the innocent child and acquit him from the case,” said Chaudhry Irfan Sadiq, who is representing the family in the criminal matter. “This case also exposes the incompetence of our police force and the way they are operating.”

Shoaib Suddle, a retired police chief, noted that the current legal system gives the benefit of the doubt to the accuser, in contrast to the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ motto adopted by other nations.

“The moment they are able to file a complaint, accusers expect that without any evidence people should be locked up and the investigation should follow, whereas the world over it is the other way around.”

Mel Welch comments

The age of criminal responsibility doesn’t have a defined age in the United States. Instead, the majority of states rely on what is known as common law, which holds that from age 7 to 14, children cannot be presumed to bear responsibility for the actions, but they can be held responsible. 13 states, Minnesota not included, have their own laws on the age of criminal responsibility, which ranges anywhere from 6 years to 12 years of age.

The notion of holding a 9-month-old responsible for his actions is ludicrous. The child cannot formulate intent at such a young age, nor can he comprehend his actions. Really, at that age, the only thing he knows how to do is cry when he’s hungry and sleep when he’s tired. The real crime here is the infantile actions of the criminal inspector.

Related source:

Two Students Handcuffed in Underwear For Leaving Door Open

Tuesday, 8. April 2014

Open Door ArrestTwo students at the University of Utah were handcuffed wearing only their pajamas last month after police entered their residence because their front door was open.

The whole ordeal began around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, at the Union Meadows apartment complex on campus. A concerned resident called police to report that their neighbor’s door was wide open at an odd hour. Three officers arrived on scene and entered the apartment after they heard no response when they announced their presence.

“They made several loud announcements, saying it was the police; they got no response,” said Lt. Justin Hoyal of the Unified Police Department.

Ramiro Aguirre, who lives at the apartment, said he never heard the officers announce their presence or enter the apartment because he was, like so many at that hour, sleeping.

“If they did announce themselves, I was dead asleep,” said Aguirre.

Questionable Tactics

The officers began to secure the apartment, and not surprisingly, they found Aguirre and roommate Ben Mertlich asleep in their respective rooms. That’s when the roommates say the officers used some questionable tactics.

“When I came to it, someone’s pulling me out of bed and to the floor,” said Aguirre.

“I just wake up to an officer with a flashlight and Taser,” added Mertlich. “As soon as you see the situation, a guy in his underwear in bed, it’s pretty obvious he’s not a burglar.”

The roommates were handcuffed because the police described their demeanor as “belligerent,” but Aguirre said it was all a misunderstanding.

According to Hoyer, when “the officer was asking the individual in bed to show his hands were he could see him; he brought it out and flipped the officer off.”

“Well I’m asleep in my own house at 3 in the morning, I didn’t know it was a cop, I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke,” Aguirre added.

The two were later questioned as to why the door was left open, and they explained that the latch was broken. The officers eventually freed the residents from their handcuffs, but the roommates said the ordeal was unsettling.

“It’s pretty vulnerable to be in that position. You have nothing, you have no defense,” Mertlich said.

The roommates are deciding if they want to press charges, but since they were released and nothing was damaged during the search, it seems unlikely that a case will proceed.

Related source: Fox 13 Now

Student Suspended For Wearing “Welcome to the Gun Show” Shirt

Tuesday, 1. April 2014

Welcome to the Gun Show shirtWe’ve heard stories where children have been suspended from school for making weapons out of Poptarts and with their fingers, but the latest story simply takes the cake.

A Maple Grove student was suspended from school for three days for wearing a t-shirt that had the word “gun” written on it.

Jeffery Warner, 17, didn’t give a second thought to his attire Monday morning when he put on his new “Welcome to the Gun Show” t-shirt. The shirt, which has been recreated above, refers to Warner’s biceps as the “guns.” A few of Warner’s friends got a chuckle when they saw their friend donning the orange shirt, but they never expected what would happen next.

“Between third and fourth period I got a call down to the office on the loudspeaker,” said Warner. “I never get in trouble, so I figured it was about Prom or something.”

When Warner arrived in the office, he was greeted by the principal and the district superintendent. He said that’s when he began to worry.

“I started running every scenario through my head, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything I did wrong,” said Warner.

“You’re Suspended”

Warner was led to a conference room where he was asked if he knew why he was there. He said he hadn’t the faintest idea, and that’s when the principal handed him the Maple Grove student conduct policy.

“He had highlighted the weapon policy, but it still didn’t dawn on me, even after I read the section that said guns of all kind are forbidden,” said Warner. “I told him I didn’t have a weapon, and he pointed at my chest and said, ‘I’m looking at it right now!’”

Once Warner came to the conclusion that the principal was talking about his shirt, he offered to go home and change. The principal said that it was too late.

“We wouldn’t let a kid who brought a knife to school go home and return without the knife, so why would we let Warner do the same?” said Principal Roy Kafest. “We felt that it was only fair to punish him the same way we’d punish anyone else who brought a weapon to school.”

Superintendent Don Belivettei echoed Kafest’s sentiments.

“Zero tolerance means just that,” said Belivettei. “Keeping our students safe is our top priority.”

Principal Kafest declined further comment, saying he was late for a meeting with a freshman who wrote the word “luger” on a history paper about World War II.

Warner said he planned to hire Appelman Law Firm to challenge the matter in court.

Related source: StockGraphicDesigns

Officer Sucker Punches Innocent Girl During Riot

Monday, 31. March 2014

An Arizona police officer was caught on video sucker punching a seemingly innocent girl who was trying to cross the street during a student riot that occurred after the University of Arizona lost to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.

Although details of the incident are still emerging, what we see on camera paints a pretty clear picture of unnecessary force on an innocent individual. You can see the incident in question below.



The punch occurs about 20 seconds into the video as the woman emerges on the right side of the screen. It appears that she has something in her left hand, possibly a phone or a drink, but she’s clearly not acting out of line. The cop enters from the right and slugs her, knocking her headfirst onto a concrete bench.

The crowd of shocked onlookers began yelling at the cop, as one man screamed, “What did you do that for?” Thankfully the woman didn’t suffer any major injuries, and some friends helped her to her feet. While the woman was able to escape with only bumps and bruises, the officer may not be so lucky.

“The officer in the video is clearly a bully who was looking to use the cover of the riot to rough someone up,” said Criminal Defense Attorney Mel Welch. “Instead of finding someone in clear violation of the law, he sought out a small woman and decided to attack her without warning. This is a disgusting case of police behavior and hopefully this video will bring him to justice. This officer is a civil suit waiting to happen, and the taxpayers of Tucson shouldn’t be forced to foot that bill.”

Related source: The Blaze

Feminist Teacher Facing Criminal Charges After Run-In With Pro-Life Teen

Tuesday, 25. March 2014

Feminist fightA women’s studies professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara has been charged with grand theft, battery and vandalism after getting into an altercation with a pro-life teen.

The incident, which was captured on cell phone video, showcases what can happen when people with strong opposing beliefs run into one another. According to the criminal complaint, 16-year-old Thrin Short, her 21-year-old sister and a group of pro-life advocates were preaching their message in a “free speech zone” on the UCSB campus on March 4. Short said she was sharing her pro-life message when Mireille Miller-Young, a professor at the university, approached the group and began disseminating her opposing view.

“Before she grabbed the sign, she was mocking me and talking over me in front of the students, saying that she was twice as old as me and had three degrees, so they should listen to her and not me,” Short said in an email to Fox News.“Then she started the chant with the students about ‘tear down the sign.’ When that died out, she grabbed the sign.”

Video Evidence

The cell phone video begins after Miller-Young and others have taken Short’s pro-life poster. Short follows the group into an elevator, where a minor physical alternation appears to take place.



Short later described the incident.

“I explained how I had been trying to keep the elevator door open with my foot, because I thought the police would be there any second, and that’s when she pushed and grabbed me,” Short’s email continued. “She then got off the elevator and tried to pull me away from the elevator doors so the others could get away with the sign.”

Short said she suffered scratches on both of her wrists as a result of the confrontation.

Miller-Young declined to comment on the incident, other than to say it was her “moral right” to act the way she did. A student in Miller-Young’s Women of Color class told reporters that “[Miller-Young is] pregnant, so she’s very sensitive to horrifying images [that were displayed].” It’s uncertain exactly what was on the poster that Short created.

Miller-Young has hired an attorney, and the UCSB said they planned to review all the evidence before making a decision in regards to Miller-Young’s employment at the university.

Related source: Fox News,

Teen DUI Likelihood Increases If They Have Ridden With Impaired Driver

Monday, 17. March 2014

Teen Drunk DrivingA new study revealed that teens are more likely to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol if they’ve ridden in a car with an impaired driver. 

Not surprisingly, the more often a teen reported riding in a car with an impaired driver, the more likely they were to drive under the influence.

“When you experience (riding with an impaired driver), it’s a normalizing experience,” said Bruce Simons-Morton, a senior investigator with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and author of the study. “It sort of suggests that that’s just how people do it, so it’s OK when (you) start driving to drive while intoxicated.”

Collecting Data

For their study, researchers tracked 2,500 10th grade students over the course of three years until they completed 12th grade. Students were given a yearly survey that asked how many times during the past year they had rode in a vehicle with a driver who had been drinking or consumed illegal drugs. The study did not ask whether the driver was a parent or a friend.

After analyzing the data, researchers discovered:

  • 10th graders who reported riding in a car with an impaired driver were “many times more likely” to report driving under the influence as a 12th grader compared to students who said they had never ridden with an impaired driver.
  • Teens who got their license in 10th or 11th grade were twice as likely to report driving while impaired in 12th grade compared to students who obtained their license in 12th grade.
  • Riding in a car with an impaired driver was a much better indicator of the likelihood a student would drive under the influence as a senior than the age at which a student obtained his or her license.

Simons-Morton said the most eye-opening statistic occurred when they compared DUI likelihood for students who regularly rode in the car with an impaired driver to those who had never ridden with an impaired driver.

“But if you reported exposure to riding with an intoxicated driver at all three surveys, you were 120 times more likely than those who had never been exposed,” said Simons-Morton.

He concluded by saying riding in a car with an impaired driver is very dangerous, and teens should do their best to set a good example for their friends.

“Nearly half of fatalities and serious injuries in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes occur to passengers, so it should be noted that the risks associated with driving while intoxicated is not just to drivers,” said Simons-Morton. “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

Related source: USA Today

Minnesota Judge Calls For Overhaul of Sex Offender Reform System

Monday, 10. March 2014

Sex Offender ReformA recent 75-page ruling penned by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank highlighted the current failings of Minnesota’s government-controlled sex offender reform program and called for sweeping changes.

In addition to condemning the current system, Frank took some steps to move control of the program to Minnesota’s legal system, as opposed to leaving the decisions up to legislators. Frank hired experts to advise the court on sex offender risk assessment, placement, and care and treatment standards as he declared the current program had “grave deficiencies.”

One of the deficiencies Frank alluded to is the number of sex offenders who have been locked up for treatment after completing their prison sentences. Most alarming of all, of the nearly 700 individuals who have entered the treatment program over the last two decades, only one person has successfully completed treatment. Frank said these indefinite treatment sentences are little more than thinly veiled prison sentences on the presumption that the offender may commit a future crime.

Concerning Trends

Another alarming statistic is the number of offenders who are seemingly lost in a purgatory-style treatment phase that does little to treat their condition. Frank wrote, “no sex-offender-specific treatment whatsoever is provided in Phase I,” yet according to the 2012 statistics, “64 percent of Minnesota Sex Offender Program patients were in Phase I” of a three-phase treatment program.

Frank has taken steps to address the programs lack of success by hiring advisory experts. The experts will review offender profiles to determine “a complete and independent evaluation of each patient.” The experts will also comb over current files to determine who truly needs to be in the program and who has shown true rehabilitation.

The ruling showcases that Frank is serious about taking over control of the program, and it should serve as a wakeup call to lawmakers in Minnesota. The House failed to pass mild reforms that had bipartisan support last year, and it doesn’t appear that any changes will occur in the near future. Neither the House nor the Senate has scheduled hearings to discuss possible reforms. Some speculate that legislators aren’t in a hurry to reform a program that may make them appear soft on crime, especially during an election year.

Mel Welch comments

I made a statement in the blog about the police who shot an unarmed teen that I feel relates to this issue. I said, “Many offenders with mental illnesses are bound to continue to cycle through the legal system because we refuse to address the real problem. They go from jail to the street and are asked to find a solution even though they don’t have the means to attain it.”

This sentiment applies to the current sex offender system. Some people believe the best way to deal with the problem is to lock up these offenders and throw away the key, instead of making sure these individuals get the help they need. Not every offender reoffends, despite public belief that they will. According to a recent study, 75 percent of Americans believe sex offenders will reoffend, while the data shows that only 14 percent reoffend with five years after release.

There needs to be a concentrated effort to re-examine the current system and ensure that offenders who serve their time and prove they are rehabilitated don’t have to stay adrift in a program that unjustly punishes them for future crimes they likely won’t commit.

Related source: Star Tribune


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