Ohio's aggravated felony-murder rule and felony-murder death penalty specification provisions apply where a death occurs “while committing or attempting to commit” certain enumerated felonies. In a line of cases beginning in 1996, the Ohio Supreme Court broadly interpreted this statutory language to include situations where the intent to commit the underlying felony was formed subsequent to the death, as a complete afterthought. With these cases, the Ohio Supreme Court departed from the majority view that the intent to commit the underlying felony must precede or co-exist with the death. The author argues that this new statutory interpretation represents an unwarranted expansion of the felony-murder rule that disregards the statutory language, ignores the underlying purpose of the rule, and dispenses with traditional safeguards designed to ameliorate its harshness. The author further argues that applying this new statutory interpretation to the felony-murder death penalty specification potentially selects for death those who are not necessarily the most deserving of this ultimate punishment. The author suggests that the solution must be a legislative one
Ohio State Law Journal
Dana K. Cole, Expanding Felony-Murder in Ohio: Felony-Murder or Murder-Felony?, 63 Ohio State Law Journal 15 (2002).