Patterico's Pontifications


Another Misleading Attack on the Felony Murder Rule

Filed under: Crime,General — Patterico @ 12:16 am

Radley Balko has a post that reads as follows:

The NY Times has a good overview of the felony murder doctrine, using the following case as its jumping off point:

Early in the morning of March 10, 2003, after a raucous party that lasted into the small hours, a groggy and hungover 20-year-old named Ryan Holle lent his Chevrolet Metro to a friend. That decision, prosecutors later said, was tantamount to murder.

The friend used the car to drive three men to the Pensacola home of a marijuana dealer, aiming to steal a safe. The burglary turned violent, and one of the men killed the dealer’s 18-year-old daughter by beating her head in with a shotgun he found in the home.

Mr. Holle was a mile and a half away, but that did not matter.

I’ve never liked the felony murder charge or, for that matter, any crime that doesn’t require the state to prove intent. It’s just too easy for prosecutors to stretch the doctrine to absurd lengths too quickly. Maybe this guy should have been more careful who he lent his car to. Maybe he shouldn’t have drank so much. Maybe he shouldn’t have been partying with such shady characters. But life in prison? Come on.

Just like the last time our libertarian friends attacked the felony murder rule, there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Balko’s post makes it sound like this fellow simply lent his car to some people, without any idea that they were going to go commit a burglary or hurt anyone.

But when you read the article linked in Balko’s post, you learn that not only had Holle “given the police a series of statements in which he seemed to admit knowing about the burglary” before lending the burglars the car, but he also “did testify that he had been told it might be necessary to ‘knock out’ Jessica Snyder.”

Instead of merely knocking her out, the burglars knocked her dead. This sounds like it was foreseeable to Mr. Holle, who knew the burglars were contemplating a burglary with possible violence involved.

Holle now claims he thought the burglars were joking when they talked about the burglary they were going to commit. But a jury convicted Mr. Holle, meaning they didn’t believe that. I’m viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the prosecution’s position, just as an appellate court will. The jury’s verdict necessarily means they believed Holle knew about the planned burglary in advance.

In other words, Mr. Holle didn’t just lend his car to some buddies. He lent his car to some people who said they were going to use it to drive to do a burglary, during the course of which they might “knock out” the victim.

Rational people can debate whether this defendant should be serving life in prison for his actions. But there’s plenty more to this story than the casual reader can discern from Balko’s post. Contrary to the implication of his post, the jury found that this is not a simple story of someone innocently lending friends his car.

I’ll say this for Balko, though; he has opened his site up to comments, so that I was able to register the above complaint on his site (or will be able to, when my comment is approved). That’s a good thing.

UPDATE: Balko updates his post and says (among other things):

A few people have made the point that I should have included in the excerpt the fact that the guy initially told police the men who borrowed his car were about to commit a robbery and may have to “knock” someone “out” in the process. They have a point. I should have, if only to help you come to your own better informed decision.

It didn’’t affect my opposition to the charge, though, because the guy also said he was drunk, and thought his friends were joking. So his crime here seems to have been an error in judgment. Or maybe an error in judgment affected by drinking too much.

Or, just maybe, he’s a criminal who’s telling a self-serving story after his conviction.

The scenario painted in the above quote, if believed by a jury, would have garnered Mr. Holle an acquittal. Either it wasn’t presented to a jury — or it was, and they didn’t believe it.

12 people concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Holle specifically intended to aid and abet a burglary — one which explicitly contemplated violence. While juries get things wrong from time to time, their judgments should be accorded respect — in the absence of a specific reason to question them. No such reason is apparent from the NYT article.

Balko simply accepts the word of a convict as sufficient to negate facts found by 12 citizens beyond a reasonable doubt.

If all it takes is a convict’s uncorroborated word to prove that a jury got it wrong, then we might as well unlock the prisons, because almost any prisoner is willing to spin a tale that flies in the face of the facts found by his jury.

103 Responses to “Another Misleading Attack on the Felony Murder Rule”

  1. I commented on Balko’s post, pending moderation:

    Your post is neither fair nor balanced. The accused testified thus:

    But Mr. Holle did testify that he had been told it might be necessary to “knock out” Jessica Snyder.

    I.e., he knew there was going to be a burglary and the exact type of violence which was eventually used might be used on the victim… he just didn’t know it would cause her death, but it was certainly a foreseeable risk in a planned robbery.

    Yet somehow, you don’t see any need to draw our attention to it specifically or comment on it. It would have been so easy to do so and then just argue the sentence itself is out of line, but the accused deserves some criminal culpability.

    Instead, you make it sound like the accused just did a buddy a good turn and said something like, “Hey, sure, borrow my car and take it for a spin.”

    Yeah, right.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  2. I’ll say this for Balko, though; he has opened his site up to comments, so that I was able to register the above complaint on his site (or will be able to, when my comment is approved).

    When will that be? Around the time my recent comment to the L.A. Times Readers Rep blog gets approved? Given Balko’s track record, I think “if” is a more appropriate word than “when.”

    Xrlq (8b1564)

  3. “When will that be? Around the time my recent comment to the L.A. Times Readers Rep blog gets approved?”

    There are nine comments under his post approved now, the last of which was approved December 6th, 2:47 a.m. Eastern so I don’t think that’s exactly a fair comparison.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  4. Anyway, mine and Patterico’s comments have been approved; I don’t see any evidence yours has yet been, Xrlq.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  5. People with 18 year old daughters deal weed?!?

    Kevin (4890ef)

  6. The New York Times article may be a good overview of the “felony murder doctrine” but it has nothing to do with the Ryan Holle case. Holle was not held strictly liable for the conduct of another during the commission of a felony as in common law felony murder. He was charged as a principal under Florida’s statute. I do not practice in Florida but as far as I can see Florida does not have the felony murder rule the NYT is talking about. Florida’s “felony murder” is not common law felony murder. As I see it, it is “first-degree murder plus” which along with premeditation makes murder during the commission of some crimes death penalty eligible.

    nk (19e0fd)

  7. I don’t know why the links didn’t work. Maybe this one to the table of contents will.

    nk (19e0fd)

  8. Good. Go to the table of contents and click the links to Chapters 777 and 782.

    nk (19e0fd)

  9. Thar she blows!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Dude (7787b4)

  10. You didn’t mention that the article states that Holle had no previous criminal record. To me, this would lend some weight to his protestations of naivety. Someone who was just casually reading your post and not going to the NYT story would be unaware of this fact.


    Dude (7787b4)

  11. You didn’t mention that the article states that Holle had no previous criminal record. To me, this would lend some weight to his protestations of naivety. Someone who was just casually reading your post and not going to the NYT story would be unaware of this fact.


    King Dude XVI (b57c06)

  12. Um…You didn’t mention that the article states that Holle had no previous criminal record. To me, this would lend some weight to his protestations of naivety. Someone who was just casually reading your post and not going to the NYT story would be unaware of this fact.


    King Dude XVI (1bd52f)

  13. Well King Dude, you don’t have to have had a criminal record in the past before you’re “eligible” to participate in a murder. The victim is just as dead, regardless of the criminal history or lack thereof of the participants.

    Lots of folks have trouble in getting their mental arms around the felony murder rule–including the fact that various states call it different things in their criminal codes. But the basic idea is sound.

    Mike Myers (31af82)

  14. The point of Balko’s post is that this guy didn’t do anything that wouuld ever remotely amount to murder absent the felony murder statue. I don’t think it’s misleading at all not to go into the elements of burglary conspiracy. Since it’s a post about “felony murder” we know a felony occured somewhere.

    It is astounding that prosecutors and the victim’s family actually seem happy that American taxpayers are locking up this guy for life, with no hope of parol.

    This primitive mentality — basically, that somehow more “justice” is achived the longer we can keep someone locked in prison (or if we can kill someone) — is Taliban-like. Just like a lot of tough-on-crime policy.

    Unfortunately, the American justice system is becoming more and more primitive, and now resembles Chinese or Muslim justice more than civilized Western justice.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  15. To Phil, it makes sense for Balko to write a post about how this guy shouldn’t be locked up for life, without talking about the conduct that got him locked up for life: namely, lending his car to people he knew would use it to transport them to commit a potentially violent burglary..

    Patterico (933fa4)

  16. The point is that NYT conflated common law felony murder with modern accomplice accountability and Radley got taken in. He’s not a lawyer so he didn’t see the bill of goods NYT is trying to sell. Florida’s “felony murder statute” is NOT the common law felony murder NYT describes as passe and anachronistic. (Not that it isn’t — it does not pass Constitutional muster after Gregg and Furman for death penalty cases.)

    I don’t see common law felony murder codified anywhere in Florida’s criminal statutes. I gave the link in my comment #7. If you guys find it, puhlease let us know.

    Under modern accountability theory, all participants in a criminal enterprise are as equally guilty as the worst actor. It applies to more than murder. If three guys try to rob a fast food restaurant and only one guy rapes the night manager, they are all three guilty of rape. (One of my cases.) If five guys go along on a drug buy and only one guy ever has drugs and takes money which he does not intend to share with the others they are all equally guilty of delivery of a controlled substance. (Another of my cases.) If five guys break into a house and one shoots the homeowner, they are all guilty of capital murder. (Thankfully, not one of my cases.)

    You can argue the Ryan Holle case on reasonable doubt. But not on the legal theory under which he was convicted. That was just plain misleading on the part of NYT.

    nk (19e0fd)

  17. Typical ‘convicts rights’ story by the New York Times. But remember the paper is controlled by the tax evading Schulzburger family that loves only its uppah class Harvard fellows and those of the bottom lumpen class–hence its eternal convicts rights stories.

    For another take on the family’s idiocy see the Times Needies Case Fund stories. Usually they are helping a lumpen immigrant (often illegal) who has gottem themselves into a ‘jam’ becasue of behavior that the dumbest animal would not do. The lumps are the Times pets. The problem is they bite.

    David Brown (d3a910)

  18. For what common law felony murder really means, see this post by Darleen Glick at Protein Wisdom.

    nk (19e0fd)

  19. he knew they would use the car in a burglary and possibly have to “knock out” a young woman?

    no sympathy! throw away the key!

    assistant devil's advocate (f1d723)

  20. ADA,

    I’ve been thinking about you as I read reports of the flooding in the NW. I’m glad to see you’re okay.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  21. the American justice system is becoming more and more primitive, and now resembles Chinese or Muslim justice more than civilized Western justice

    Yeah, this poor guy was subjected to the legal threat of the death penalty, just for calling a Teddy Bear “Mohammed.”

    Under modern accountability theory, all participants in a criminal enterprise are as equally guilty as the worst actor.

    Sort of. It is typically required that the resulting criminal acts be foreseeable consequences of the act in which the suspect participated. For example, driving a car to a store with the plan of knocking the clerk out and stealing the money could reasonably and foreseeably result in armed robbery, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, murder of the clerk or manslaughter, or maybe even some kind of crime relating to the escape, such as the shooting of a police officer who happened upon the robbery scene. The driver could be held liable for any of those foreseeable consequences on the theory that a reasonable person getting involved in that kind of crime has a pretty good idea of what could happen. But if one of the perps goes into the store, steals a briefcase from one of the patrons that has corporate earnings statements in it, then subsequently perpetrates stock fraud, the driver probably isn’t liable for the criminal securities law violation, because that’s not the kind of consequence that normally and naturally flows from armed robbery.

    Al Maviva (89d0b6)

  22. Yeah, this poor guy was subjected to the legal threat of the death penalty, just for calling a Teddy Bear “Mohammed.”

    We’re getting pretty close, when a guy is put in prison for life for what he was alegedly thinking. He committed no illegal act whatsoever — he just supposedly “knew” what was going to happen in the future.

    In a way, this is more abstract a crime than calling a teddy “Mohammed.” At least the teacher did something that was supposedly illegal.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  23. Phil #22,

    He gave them a car, you [person lacking command of his mental faculties].

    nk (19e0fd)

  24. He committed no illegal act whatsoever — he just supposedly “knew” what was going to happen in the future.

    Baloney, Phil. He aided and abetted the burglary, making him an accomplice. His accomplices told him they would likely resort to violence.

    You can’t possibly argue that he did nothing wrong, nor can you argue that he couldn’t reasonably foresee a death resulting from the violence his accomplices warned him about.

    Steverino (e00589)

  25. nk #23, well said.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  26. I’m not losing any sleep over the guy who is stupid enough to not only give his car to friends going to burgle a house but also to tell the police he pretty much knew what they were going to do.

    And just as he does with his anti-SWAT team/no knock campaigns, Balko’s sympathy for people he feels were screwed by a corrupt and evil criminal justice system leads him to leave out important parts of the story… in this case, not only the part Patrick points out, but also that it takes more to nail someone than a prosecutor willing to “stretch the doctrine to absurd lengths too quickly”, the jury also has to unanimously agree.

    steve sturm (40e5a6)

  27. drj, thank you for your concern. i was without phone and power for three days (and being on a well means my well pump was knocked out too), however, i had stored water and plenty of candles/flashlight batteries, propane cooktop for coffee and my woodburning stove kept me warm the while. this was the most violent, sustained storm in my six and a half years living here, steady winds in the 80s, top gusts at 113. all the metal siding on the west side of my barn tore off in a single sheet, rotated around to the north and squashed another outbuilding as flat as a pancake. firs down all over the roads, a giant rhodie in my yard uprooted, the roof almost, but not quite tore off my water heater room. lot of work cleaning up here and getting ready for the next one.

    assistant devil's advocate (f1d723)

  28. Mother Nature wasn’t gentle this week. I hope the clean-up isn’t too hard.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  29. I agree with you on the substantive issue, but I do want to nit-pick the use of the phrase “our libertarian friends.” It is certainly true that Radley Balko is a libertarian, but that’s not true of many of his allies on this issue, including folks at TAPPED whose accounts were, if possible, even more misleading.

    However, I don’t think that libertarianism as such has much to say about felony murder. Except for anarcho-capitalists, libertarians do believe that the government can prosecute and punish people for crimes with actual victims who have been hurt. These include both burglary and murder. Nor does libertarian political theory rule out accomplice liability. I certainly don’t have a problem reconciling libertarianism with support for the felony murder rule.

    Cheerful Iconoclast (06404c)

  30. “When will that be? Around the time my recent comment to the L.A. Times Readers Rep blog gets approved?”

    There are nine comments under his post approved now, the last of which was approved December 6th, 2:47 a.m. Eastern so I don’t think that’s exactly a fair comparison.

    Given Balko’s long history of not allowing comments and willfully ignoring email corrections, I think it was a very fair assumption indeed. It turned out to be wrong in your case and Patterico’s, but not mine.

    Xrlq (8b1564)

  31. I thought he approved your comment, X.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  32. he did. will x now apologize/ correct his opinion?

    joe (c0e4f8)

  33. So he has. So much for my LAT analogy, I guess Balko’s turned over a new leaf.

    Xrlq (8b1564)

  34. The felony murder rule is necessary. My 16 year old daughter was murdered by two youths, both claiming the other one did it. Both were present when the murder was committed – both were sentenced to life in prison – in Florida. No chance of parole. In Florida, as most of the South, we are fortunate to have great legislators and judges that believe in justice. Without felony murder, both these youths would have walked.

    Proud Floridian (0678a3)

  35. Proud Floridian,

    I’m sorry you lost your daughter in such horrible circumstances.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  36. He committed no illegal act whatsoever


    When amateurs like yourself opine on criminal law matters, it shows.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  37. Proud Floridian,

    I too am sorry to hear about your daughter. I have handled cases with fact patterns similar enough to convince me that the felony murder rule is necessary. I think in the case cited by Balko, its justification was less obvious, and again, reasonable people can debate the wisdom of its application there. But it’s a good rule to have around.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  38. In fact, that’s how the cops who killed Kathryn Johnston could be charged with murder. By fabricating evidence to get a search warrant, they burglarized her house. In the commission of that burglary, she was killed. Everyone who participated in the burglary was chargeable with murder under the felony murder rule.

    Now who can argue with that?

    Indeed, while Balko initially professed to have misgivings about the application of the felony murder rule in that case (“I can’t get terribly excited about a felony murder charge”), the last time I saw him talking about Kathryn Johnston, he seemed to have gotten over said misgivings — and was calling it the “Kathryn Johnston murder.” And good for him, because (despite the cops’ pleas to a lesser charge) it really was a murder, in my opinion — thanks to our old friend, the felony murder rule.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  39. I became satisfied that the Johnston case rose to the level of murder when it was revealed that the police officers made no effort to save her life after shooting her, and upon realizing their mistake–that they left her handcuffed on the floor, bleeding, while they planted marijuana in her basement.

    I still don’t think they should have been charged with murder solely for perjuring themselves in the search warrant, which led to the raid, which led to the shootout. I just don’t believe we should charge people with crimes they didn’t intend to commit.

    Radley Balko (a4e70a)

  40. That’s where we disagree; I think that it’s easily foreseeable that perjury in obtaining a search warrant can lead to a person being killed in a botched raid to serve that improper search warrant. (And, of course, I think it’s important to distinguish between perjury — as clearly happened in that case — and an honest error.)

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  41. Comment by Joel Rosenberg — 12/7/2007 @ 7:11 am

    Yes, but it may be a stretch in your example. Criminal culpability, sure, but equivalent to murder is problematic.

    If I do something that carries a RISK of killing someone, but it’s unlikely to, is this murder or manslaughter? I think most people would agree it’s manslaughter.

    Christoph (92b8f7)


    krazy kagu (0a3548)

  43. Phil,

    When amateurs like yourself opine on criminal law matters, it shows.

    Patterico, I won’t pretend to be as experienced in criminal law as you. However, I have yet to see a statute that says lending your car to people is an illegal act. Is there one? I’m not aware of any.

    The prosecutors argued that he knew that an illegal act would take place later, and therefor he was punished for acts that he did not do. But he took no action that was itself illegal at the time he did it.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  44. I think that the felony murder rule can be a good thing; what bothers me about it is that it seems (not saying that it is, just seems) the cases that get the attention are usually where the persons getting really slammed are usually far from the act, and those doing the deed are pleading down to testify against those on the edges.

    In this case, the “victim” turned down a ten year sentence plea agreement, and ended up getting the same sentence as the others. That’s the risk you take, I suppose. I’d be happier if the plea had been for a bit less, or with parole at five, or some such, I think that the ten might have seemed too close to the life sentence he got.

    I’m much more bothered by how he “seemed” to admit to knowledge of the crime; either he said that he knew, in which case he’s fairly caught up in the trap, or he did not, and he’s wound up by confused or faulty recollections — if not actual perjury.

    htom (412a17)

  45. Radley #39,

    If you are invading someone’s home and he tries to prevent you and you kill him, it’s murder, with the aggravating circumstance of home invasion which makes it eligible for the death penalty. Not felony murder under the common law. Common law felony murder would be if he killed your accomplice and you stood trial for his killing.

    So, in the case of Kathryn Johnson, her killing was murder in the first degree, with the aggravating factors of home invasion and murder of a senior citizen, which made it death penalty eligible.

    If the cops had killed innocent bystanders, they would still be death penalty eligible murderers. If Kathryn Johnston had killed an innocent bystander by a wild shot the cops would be guilty of his “felony murder” but I strongly doubt death penalty eligible. If Kathryn Johnson had killed an invading cop the others would also be guilty of “felony murder” but likely still not death penalty eligible.

    nk (19e0fd)

  46. Phil #43,

    Loaning a car is legal. Loaning a car to be used in a burglary is aiding and abetting burglary and it may even rise to conspiracy to commit burglary. Those actions are not legal.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  47. Yup. Pretty straightforward. Similarly: handing your friend a gun and saying, “pull the trigger. Go ahead.” It matters a lot whether you’re down at the range pointing it safety at the target or standing over the guy your friend has just kicked to the ground.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  48. i agree with nk in #45. a cop entering a home on a warrant obtained by perjury has no greater standing than an armed burglar willing to kill. it’s disgraceful that the state of georgia settled for a manslaughter conviction here, and this decision has two important consequences 1) the message to the cops and the community that these cops weren’t being punished for perjury and murder, they were only being punished for getting caught, and 2) the diminution of public respect which is the rightful due of good cops, and the apathetic shrug which the slaying of a good cop now earns as a result of that message.

    assistant devil's advocate (c18246)

  49. i didnt read all of the comments but i am ryan holles little sister. hes a good guy with a great heart, no criminal record, all the other guys had done time in jail or prison….he may have been 20 at the time but he was naive, 4 guys he had only known for a few days or weeks, the one who asked to borrow his car borrowed his car all the time [he knew him about 2 months], not to mention one of the jurors WORKED WITH JESSICA. he didnt know any of the 4 had jail records and im sure if he did he wouldnt have put himself AND I in that situation [i was living at the house with him and some roomates], it was the morning after a night of heavy drinking and partying for him. he deserves SOME time and he knows that, but NOT his entire life. thank you for your time…

    heather holle

    Heather, Ryan Holles sister (a518e5)

  50. Phil, to be an accessory to a crime does not require that the act one does is itself, in isolation separate from all the other circumstances, a crime.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  51. Based on what we’ve heard, I think Ryan Holle’s sister is probably right. Life does seem to me to be unfairly harsh, given what he did.

    Beyond that, there’s an object lesson for others, besides the obvious one: far as I can tell, the main evidence that put him in jail was what he said to the cops. Had he been savvy enough to limit himself to “I need to speak to my attorney,” it’s unlikely that he would have gotten convicted at all. (Whether it would have been more fair for him to skate entirely vs. get life in prison is an interesting question; I don’t think there’s an obvious answer.)

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  52. Ryan doesn’t deserve life in prison.

    Sylvia, Ryan's Mom (066e78)

  53. The 18-year old innocent girl didn’t deserve to be murdered. Justice demands a stern penalty. Without his actions — and her death was foreseeable insofar as he knew about the burglary and the direct actors were planning to strike the victim and knock her out in the event she intervened — she would be alive living a far more worthwhile life than Ryan Holle was likely to.

    If you are Ryan’s mother, your guilty son deserves a felony murder conviction and an appropriately harsh sentence as set forth in law. He gets life (pun not intended) which is far more than the victim will receive.

    He also, blessedly, gets an opportunity to reform his soul. He had better do so or his sentence in the next life may be more severe than the one he received in this.

    I have no sympathy for your son. I am sorry for the loss suffered by the victim, the pain her family endures, and the pain you endure. I pray your son does reform himself and makes as much of himself in prison as he is able.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  54. Christoph,

    Sometimes you need to just keep your finger off the “Submit Comment” button.

    Mrs. Ryan Holle,

    I’m very sorry for your pain, and I hope that you will comment again to let us know more about your son’s case, than we know from the news, so we can make a better judgment.

    nk (26f031)

  55. Agreed.

    Sorry Mrs Ryan Holle, but as it stands I personally don’t know enough to have an opinion either way on your son’s sentence.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  56. I’m sorry, that should have been “Mrs. Holle”.

    nk (26f031)

  57. Christoph, you’re normally a nice, thoughtful guy, and I like you, but I’m with nk on this one. (Except for the typo, if it was a typo — by some coincidence, is Ryan Holle’s Mom is “Mrs. Ryan”? I completely disavow any support for others’ typeaux; I commit far too many of my own, as it is.) No, the victim didn’t deserve to be murdered, and Ryan Holle shouldn’t have in any way contributed to a situation in which other people killed her.

    But there’s no reason to think that Ryan Holle’s mother is in any way a villain in this, and a lot of reason to think that this whole experience — which isn’t her fault — would cause a mother a lot of pain, and it isn’t nice to flick at her wounds.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  58. See what you did NK… Made me look silly. I assumed you would get it right, so I copied.

    I should know better than to listen to lawyers… :)

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  59. I apologize again. Seriously. And I hope that Mrs. Holle will join the discussion despite my aphasia.

    [NK & Scott, I fixed the name issues and I’m sure Mrs. Holle understands. — DRJ]

    nk (26f031)

  60. I hope she does too. It would provide a POV we’d normally never see.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  61. I respect others opionions, Christoph did you ever think of this. NO WEED, NO CRIME….oh and lets not mention a rifle left out unsecured. I feel sorry for the Snyder family. There is so much to this story that didn’t come out during the trial.

    Sylvia, Ryan's Mom (066e78)

  62. Is that the point of view you were expecting, Scott? It was the weed’s fault? The rifle’s fault?

    lc (a21bb2)

  63. I would like more than the prosecution’s argument on this, lc. What did Ryan know and when did he know it, Mrs. Holle?

    nk (26f031)

  64. LC the girls mother was a drug dealer.

    Sylvia, Ryan's Mom (066e78)

  65. Sylvia, I have thought that it is often (certainly not always) the case with children who commit terrible crimes resulting in death or other grievous harm that they receive a bad model from their parents in the realm of personal responsibility and facing reality. This can have awful consequences including for the child, for example, the child may go on to commit crimes and be sentenced to life imprisonment. I suspect that is at least partially the case here, but no one but God will ever know one way or the other.

    While I don’t hold you responsible for Ryan Colle’s crime and its lethal consequences, since he was solely responsible for his decisions, I suspect you had more influence on the development of his irresponsible attitudes and philosophies than Joel Rosenberg does.

    Ryan’s responsible for his decisions. At the same time, the underlying thought processes I see at work behind what you said in comment #61, evading responsibility on his behalf and assigning blame elsewhere — more likely than not — partially (and only partially) explain how Ryan could have developed a philosophy that let him nonchalantly contribute to something other people his age would have rejected.

    I could be wrong. And I could be right.

    My prayer is you assist your son over the years in both accepting full responsibility for his crime and working to make himself a better man. Then perhaps he can even help others in prison or without by his positive influence on people. In the meantime, I pray he’s physically safe and as comfortable as prison life allows.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  66. The children of drug dealers are not outside the protection of the law. What was false about the state’s case against Ryan?

    nk (26f031)

  67. *Holle

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  68. christoph how can you say that about my mom? she raised me and ryan the same, same values same everything. the kind of person ryan is, is almost like a male version/personality of me in my opinnion, i work for a bail bonds place, i see the kind of defunk stuff that goes on in this county. my mom is not a “bad role model”, ryan has a good soul, he would never hurt anyone. if he would have known what these boys were capable of he would never have lent them his car.

    heather holle, ryans sister (d671ab)

  69. nk, I can’t give details, the case has been reopened.

    Sylvia, Ryan's Mom (066e78)

  70. Ryan’s Mom, I know the girl’s mother was a drug dealer. Are criminals allowed to beat the children of drug dealers to death? What’s your point?

    lc (a21bb2)

  71. The point is if the parents weren’t selling drugs to the guys that broke in, none of this would ever have happened.

    Sylvia, Ryan's Mom (066e78)

  72. Sylvia, Ryan’s Mom, there’s no particular reason to believe that the murdering thieves (and I’m using the term descriptively here) wouldn’t have broken into some other place to steal. Do you have some reason to believe that they were only willing to steal from a drug dealer but wouldn’t have bothered, say, a suburban family with a valuable coin collection?

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  73. Heather Holle, I certainly will believe you if your contention is your mom doesn’t commit evil actions herself; I have no evidence to the contrary and no reason whatsoever to believe she does. If you also refrain from evil — and/or criminally irresponsible — actions with a substantial likelihood of harming others, I am glad of this.

    However, my thought, which I would love to be wrong about, but I don’t think I am wrong… is that your mom may for the most be part a decent person — in some ways probably better than myself — and yet at the same time, as her comments #61, #64, and #71 seem to indicate to me, I think she’s demonstrating an attitude and philosophical tendency toward not embracing personal responsibility and not facing reality in a balanced way (as the 12 impartial jurors who reached a unanimous verdict were required to do).

    My dad and my mom despite their numerous flaws were relentless in driving home the point that I and I alone am responsible for what I do and what happens to me as a result.

    Despite financial challenges, sexual desire, and anger… I refrain from burglary, rape, and murder. I don’t want to toot my horn beyond what I’ve said and this: I would never ever have taken part in a scheme to burglarize a house and hit an 18-year old girl for monetary gain. I would never have such friends, to start with, and if I became aware of such a plot, I would work against them up to and including informing the police and/or using force. I cannot help but believe that my father’s and mother’s united influence on me growing up, which spurred me personally to go out of my way to develop certain convictions on my own, are partially responsible for how I see things.

    I apologize if this next thing comes across the wrong way (but for nothing I’ve written above), I’m going to see my mom today and I’m going to print off this post including comments for her to read and I’m to thank her for raising me the way she did.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  74. Mrs Holle, that might be true, but couldn’t the arguement then be made that if your son hadn’t loaned the car there wouldn’t have been the attack?

    I believe NK was asking about what in the first trial, presented by the state, was false.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  75. spamming to get rid of the post-covering bot-post

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  76. Heather and Sylvia Holle,

    My apologies for the boorish behavior of my commenter Christoph. His self-righteousness sometimes overcomes his better judgment. This appears to be one of those times.

    I generally have sympathy for the family members of criminals, who often are victims of the criminal’s conduct in some sense. (I know you don’t consider him a criminal, but the law does, unless and until his conviction is overturned.) His friends’ actions caused a young woman to lose her life. A jury says your son/brother contributed to that. But these people’s actions also caused you to lose a son and a brother. I find that sad, and I am sorry.

    I would be interested in hearing more about the case. I’m not generally inclined to accept the word of someone who has been convicted by a jury. But you never know: you might be able to convince me an injustice took place. I have already said that, based on the facts known to me, it’s debatable whether Mr Holle deserves life. Perhaps more information would shed more light on this question.

    Feel free to e-mail me at patterico AT gmail DOT com if you are willing to share more. Please understand that I’m interested in this only as a blogger. I can’t provide legal advice or help you with your case in any way. I am merely a blogger interested in the public policy issues raised by this case. Treat me as you would a journalist, and speak with me only to the extent you feel comfortable doing so.

    Patterico (d645cf)

  77. Classily done, Patterico.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  78. “ryan has a good soul”

    Ryan may or may not have a good soul. I’m not an authority on that.

    “he would never hurt anyone. if he would have known what these boys were capable of he would never have lent them his car”

    Heather Holle, I believe you’re showing the same trait I pointed out in your mom…

    Ryan knew what they were capable of; they told him they were going to commit a burglary where there is always a reasonable possibility of death. In order to commit this burglary they told Ryan they may strike and knock out this specific girl if she was home.


    … who 12 neutral citizens knowing full well the sentence ranges for a conviction found guilty…

    did hurt someone.

    Patterico may value niceness over honesty, but I’ll go with honesty. The attitudes and philosophy I’ve criticized above is what, in Ryan, caused him to commit this felonious murder, plus greed and lack of empathy. My kindness lies in truth alone. If Ryan spends the rest of his life believing in his innocence and the unjustness of his sentence, I believe this will harm him and his soul. If he comes to grips with what he did and accepts full responsibility, genuine responsibility for the callous way he assisted in killing her, I sincerely believe things will be better for him in the next life. Ultimately, the sentence is passed and there is nothing I nor anyone here can do about it except, perhaps, you and your mom. Even then I believe it is beyond your power.

    It is for Ryan’s welfare, for yours, and your mother’s, that I hope you consider my words in the spirit I mean them: Neither mean nor nice, simply earnest. Dismiss them if you like, but I believe embracing it will be better you.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  79. That’s right Christoph. Keep on a-diggin’

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  80. Patterico, Thanks, I’ll be in touch.

    Sylvia, Ryans Mom (066e78)

  81. I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for 21 years. I can’t recall when the family of a client didn’t tell me their relative was innocent, framed, the victim was to blame, the judge/DA/cops paid off, the previous atty working with the police, the law unfair, etc., etc., etc. It gets old.

    tired (712713)

  82. I’d be happier if the plea had been for a bit less, or with parole at five, or some such, I think that the ten might have seemed too close to the life sentence he got.

    I’m not familiar with Florida sentencing laws and I assume neither are you. For all we know he might have been eligible for parole at a very early date.

    tired (712713)

  83. Just blog hopping, but this…

    who 12 neutral citizens knowing full well the sentence ranges for a conviction found guilty…

    caught my eye.

    12 citizens found OJ not guilty.

    Juries are reliably unreliable and – usually – predisposed to side w/the prosecution.

    I would guess Rolle declined the plea because he and/or his lawyer couldn’t believe he’d be convicted. Based on what I see, I might’ve done the same. Count me as one who believes the punishment doesn’t fit the crime based on the case as I see it, understanding of course that my knowledge is limited to what I have read in the last few minutes.

    hoosiertoo (702927)

  84. 12 citizens found OJ not guilty.

    Juries are reliably unreliable and – usually – predisposed to side w/the prosecution.

    We know the OJ verdict was absurd because the trial was televised and we know what the evidence was.

    With Rolle, unlike OJ, there’s no specific reason to question the jury’s verdict.

    Maybe I should have acknowledged this in the post, and said something like this:

    While juries get things wrong from time to time, their judgments should be accorded respect — in the absence of a specific reason to question them.

    Would that have been better?

    Good. Because I did say that.

    Read it again.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  85. Patterico, more to the point, much of the argument from the defendant’s advocates seems to be to want to shade the young man’s intent in ways that do little to really convince me of an invalid conviction per se.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  86. I would guess Rolle declined the plea because he and/or his lawyer couldn’t believe he’d be convicted.

    The evidence showed that he lent his car knowing it was to be used in a burglary. It also demonstrated that he was told the girl would be harmed. Is that enough to convict someone of these charges? An experienced lawyer would advise his client yes. Was the lwop sentence mandatory? Not sure, but I believe it was. He should have taken the 10 year deal.

    tired (712713)

  87. They’re not hunting where the ducks are, reasonable doubt, because that’s the difficultest hunting. And they’re not addressing Florida’s “Principal” and “Murder” statutes because likely those have been challenged and upheld many times and there’s lots of case law supporting the legal theory under which Ryan Holle was convicted. So, like the man who was looking for a lost dollar on Second Street, although he had lost it on First Street, because the light on Second Street is better, they are denouncing the “felony murder” rule whatever they think it means.

    nk (26f031)

  88. In other words, nk, they aren’t facing reality in a balanced way. I suspect Ryan is the same.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  89. They are looking at the lion’s tail and not its teeth. I do wonder, however, what Sylvia meant that “Ryan’s case has been reopened”. Was a post-trial motion filed? Was it granted? Was an appeal filed? Was there a remand for a new trial? It could be any of the foregoing, the second and fourth significant, the first and second not.

    nk (26f031)

  90. Sorry, “the first and third”.

    nk (26f031)

  91. How about none of the above? His conviction was confirmed on appeal without comment. I assume the family found an attorney to investigate the possibility of a writ.

    tired (f7c9b5)

  92. I don’t argue against the legality of the sentence or the righteousness of the conviction. You’re not going to convince me that lwop is appropriate in this instance. I’ve got little use for the law; I’m much more interested in justice. As I see it, in this particular case, the sentence is an injustice.

    Mandatory sentencing is a travesty – JMHO, of course. FWIW, I think plea bargaining is also. Wouldn’t it be better to charge a defendant appropriately than to shoot for the moon figuring you can get him to agree to a sentence the prosecution – 10 years in this case – thought was appropriate to the alleged (at the time) crime and allow the judge to sentence according to his best judgement?

    Mandatory sentencing and plea bargaining are refuges for lazy and/or incompetent prosecutors, defense attorneys.*

    *Please note that the above statement doesn’t apply to lawyers in general.

    hoosiertoo (13fdab)

  93. …incompetent prosecutors, defense attorneys and demogogues.

    That’s what I get for multitasking.

    hoosiertoo (13fdab)

  94. You’re assuming the plea bargain offers are automatically the more appropriate sentences. They are not. They are made due to problems with proof, overcrowded courtrooms, cooperation with the prosecution of co-defs who maybe more culpable, etc.

    I remember life before mandatory sentencing and it was much more unfair then. Mandatory sentences are enacted by law by legislatures who are voted into office. Obviously, the majority of people want them. And, it is rare that a higher court will find the sentence disproportionate, i.e., cruel and unusual.

    Bottomline, Holle decided his own faith.

    tired (e9bea6)

  95. Holle is was a drunk idiot. I am not a liberal in any sense of the word, but this just doesn’t sit right with me. If my friend asks to borrow my car and i say sure, and he goes and robs a bank and kills someone, thank God, California won’t put me away for life.

    I say let him go, time served, conviction stands. No sense wasting his life for vengeance. Even the prosicuter thought so, or they wouldn’t have offered him a deal in the first place. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. I don’t see any justice here. Where’s the appeal?

    shamousrex (464c77)

  96. shamousrex, you misstate the facts. And there is little to appeal here as the validity of the felony murder rule is long established. He was an accessory to a crime that resulted in a death. He is rightly going to pay the penalty for that crime.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  97. Some very odd points being made here and indeed some seriously dodgy logic being employed.

    Christoph. A very hard line stance. The man was drunk when he loaned his car to these goons. Is he guilty of a crime. YES. Did he commit MURDER. NO. He deserves some punishment for aiding and abeiting a crime, but the notion that he should have forseen a potenial death is simply ludicrous. A person who commits any crime could potentially cause death or injury if only be accident.

    Let us look at this idea from another point of view. Should the mother of the girl also get life in prison. Drug dealing is a notoriouly voilent endevour. Surely she must have known that a violent altercation could happen at her home where she was keeping drugs. Is she therefore culpable in the murder of her daughter?

    Gun manufacturers make devices which are specifically designed to kill/injure. There actions in so do will lead to the crime related deaths of thousands of people. Are they culpable. They know BEFORE the guns ever leave the factory that many of them will end up in the hands of criminals who will use them to kill innocent people. They are making the guns for profit. Shoudl they be held accountable for crimes committed using thier hardware? Of course not. This is an absurd example which I am only using to stress the point. People are responsible for thier actions. They are not responsible for what other people might do.

    Ryan Holle’s crime was to loan his car to people with criminal intent. If he had refused, they would in all likelyhood have found alternate means of transportation. This was not a crime of passion (The intended robbery). He punishment should fit HIS crime, not the crimes of other people.

    Gazza (f17a3d)

  98. If we give Ryan life should’nt we give the mother of the murdered girl life as well? By pure logic?
    She committed an illegal act that led to her daughters death. How can it be denied that she had a much bigger part to play in creating this situation than Ryan? She set up the situation that laid the foundation for all of this?

    Robert Jackson (9c86db)

  99. Either mom’s sentence should be more than ryan’s or ryan’s should be less than moms. By pure logic … following the logic used in this argument. Pick one or the other. Just be consistent and fair.

    Robert Jackson (9c86db)

  100. Are you saying these animals would not have tried to rob her if she had been selling diamonds instead of marijuana?

    Pure logic. Riiight.

    nk (dda711)

  101. Patterico wants to know if nullification supporters would lie to get on a jury to nullify an unjust charge.

    I’ve said before that I most certainly would.

    — Radley Balko

    On the above issue as well as the current one Mr Balko is demonstrably a proponent of the manipulative approach. I would caution him that manipulation usually backfires, good intentions notwithstanding.

    ras (fc54bb)

  102. um. Sorry. Not pure logic. Selling diamonds is not illegal.

    She created a situation that was outside the law to begin with.

    If she was selling illegal diamonds then she would be responsible.

    See…if we push the accountability back to the loaner of the car then it should be carried all the way back to the orginal illegal act. The mother selling drugs. She was out to make an easy buck. And surrounded her self and her family with those who play outside the law. Completely irresponsible! She put her child in harms way! She was the adult and the parent and she created a situation that lost her daughters life. Right?

    Robert Jackson (9c86db)

  103. Robert, you don’t understand the felony murder rule and so you are making ridiculous arguments. The issue is not any illegal act. The issue is complicity in a dangerous crime. The crime that Holle knowingly was an accessory to was burglary – an inherently dangerous felony.

    Your examples do not meet this explicity element of the felony murder rule and so are not analogous in any way.

    SPQR (26be8b)

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