Hines v. State
267 Ga. 491, 578 S.E.2d 868 (2003)

  • Hines was out turkey hunting with some friends. He accidentally mistook Wood for a turkey and shot him dead.
    • Turns out, Hines was a convicted felon, and so it was a crime for him to be in possession of a firearm.
  • Hines was arrested and charged with murder.
    • The prosecutor argued that the possession of the gun was a felony. Therefore, Wood died during the commission of a felony and so Hines was guilty of felony murder.
  • The Trial Court convicted Hines of felony murder and sentenced him to life in prison. He appealed.
    • Hines argued that felony murder is only applicable if the underlying felony is something that is “inherently dangerous.” (aka “by its circumstances creates a foreseeable risk of death.”)
      • Hines argued that gun possession is not an inherently dangerous activity, even if it was technically illegal.
  • The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the conviction.
    • The Georgia Supreme Court looked to the specifics of this case. They found that Hines was probably drunk and took an unsafe shot into the brush. Hines’ activity did have a foreseeable risk of death and that’s enough to sustain the conviction.
  • In a dissent it was argued that in order to be “inherently dangerous” the activity must have a high probability of causing death. In this case, Hines was most likely negligent, but his activities didn’t rise to the level of “inherently dangerous.”
    • The dissent argued that Wood died due to a tragic accident, and it was unfair to punish Hines with the same severity as an arsonist who intention sets fire to an occupied building.
      • Hines did not have a “life-threatening state of mind.” He wasn’t trying to commit a felony at all.
  • In this case, the majority defined felony murder by asking whether the felony was committed in a way that creates a foreseeable risk of death, while the dissent suggested that the question to ask is whether the felony created a ‘high probability’ that a person would be killed.
    • Compare to People v. Phillips (414 P.2d 553 (1966)) which ignored the way in which the felony was committed and simply asked if the felony itself was ‘inherently dangerous’ as defined.