"Attempting to Cause an Unintended Death" Not a Recognized Crime in Ohio


The Ohio Supreme Court held today that the crime of "attempted felony murder" is not a recognized law in the state. In the decision, Justice Pfeifer wrote that it is not logically possible to purposefully cause an unintentional death (Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-4800). If the death was unintentional, then the individual who caused the death could not have planned it beforehand.

In order to be convicted of any attempted crime, the defendant must have acted knowingly or purposely. In the state of Ohio, most crimes have a corresponding statute for attempting to commit that crime. A felony murder conviction, according to Ohio statute, does not require proof that the defendant intended to kill the victim. The only proof necessary is A) the victim was killed by the defendant, and B) the defendant intended to commit the underlying felony.

Ohio's felony murder statute is detailed in § 2903.02(B) of the Ohio Revised Code. It states,

(B) No person shall cause the death of another as a proximate result of the offender's committing or attempting to commit an offense of violence that is a felony of the first or second degree and that is not a violation of section 2903.03 or 2903.04 of the Revised Code.

Ohio's "attempt to commit an offense" statute is detailed in § 2903.02(B) of the Ohio Revised Code. It states,

(A) No person, purposely or knowingly, and when purpose or knowledge is sufficient culpability for the commission of an offense, shall engage in conduct that, if successful, would constitute or result in the offense.

The high court's decision to uphold current Ohio law stemmed from a 2012 conviction for attempted felony murder and two other offenses in Portage County. The defendant appealed to the 11th district, which decided a conviction for knowingly committing an unintended murder is logically impossible. The state appealed, and the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the appellate court's decision.