It’s been a bad month for my most recent crop of Supreme Court cases, both in terms of cases where I represent the party and in cases where I am amicus counsel. But I try to learn from them all. And here’s my takeaway from the month. To have and cite a case is not
There are two big stories in the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision in Jackson v. State. The first is that the rule of causation for felony murder that had been in place for thirty years has been changed. The second is that the majority has provided a framework for any appellant to use in future cases to use to attack the concept of precedent itself. While it probably is intended as a tool for the State to use against persons charged and convicted of crimes, it is worth a try on your client’s behalf. Precedent doesn’t mean what it used to mean, and by “used to” I mean before the Jackson opinion came out.
This opinion has several moving parts. So many, in fact, that I wrote up a State v. Jackson mindmap.pdf for use in interpreting and following it.
Facts and Procedural Posture
Factually, the case reads like a case out of a law school exam. Carlester Jackson, Warren Smith, and Jerold Daniels decided to rob a drug dealer. Daniels approached the intended victim with a handgun with Jackson nearby in a getaway car. The victim and Daniels exchanged gunfire and Daniels was killed by the victim who was acting in self defense. The State charged Jackson with felony murder for causing the death of co-conspirator Daniels while all three were engaged in the felony act of armed robbery.
In short, the issue in the case was whether a co-defendant can be charged with, prosecuted, and convicted for the death of a co-defendant at the hands of a victim who kills another co-defendant in self-defense.
The trial court followed precedent and dismissed the charges. The State appealed the dismissal specifically to ask the Supreme Court to overrule Crane v. State, the case that said that such a prosecution could not be brought.
The Supreme Court reversed the trial court, overruled Crane, and set up a new test — a meta-test — to use to determine which precedents are worthy of standing and which ones ought to go.