Stewart had a newborn baby and
an addiction to drugs. She went on a bender and forgot to feed the baby
for a few days. The baby died.
Stewart was arrested and
charged with murder.
Stewart made a motion to
dismiss, on the grounds that she did not intentionally kill her baby.
The prosecutor argued that
the baby died during the commission of a felony (child neglect), and that
killings that occur during the commission of another felony are felony
The Trial Judge denied the
motion to dismiss. Stewart appealed.
Stewart claimed that felony
murder can only be found when the
initial felony is "inherently dangerous."
Steward argued that based
on some California cases, the court is to look at the felony in the
abstract (without considering the specifics of the case). If it is
possible to commit the felony and not endanger human life, then the
felony is not "inherently dangerous."
It is possible to neglect
your baby without killing him, therefore, according to Stewart, her
felony was not "inherently dangerous" and could not be used
to sustain a charge of felony murder.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court
The Rhode Island Supreme
Court found that the proper thing to consider was whether the felony was
"inherently dangerous as committed."
California, the Court here is saying that the jury is to look at the
specific elements of the felony and determine if that felony as
committed was likely to result in
death. If so, then a charge of felony murder could be sustained.