State v. Canola
73 N.J. 206, 374 A.2d 20 (1977)

  • Canola and a few other guys were robbing a store. The storeowner pulled out a gun and killed one of the robbers (Lloredo).
    • Lloredo the robbery shot the storeowner dead too.
  • Canola and the other two surviving robbers were arrested and charged with (among other things), felony murder.
    • Because Canola was committing a crime, he is culpable for any deaths that occurred in furtherance of that crime.
  • The Trial Court found the three guilty of felony murder for the death of the storeowner and the death of Lloredo, and sentenced them to 2 life sentences each. They appealed.
    • Canola et. al. argued that they shouldn’t be culpable for Lloredo’s death because he was a cofelon.
  • The Appellate Court upheld the conviction for the storeowner’s death, but dismissed the count for Lloredo’s death. The prosecutor appealed.
  • The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed and struck the conviction for Lloredo’s death.
    • The New Jersey Supreme Court looked to the historical common-law and found that traditionally, felony murder was limited to situations where the defendant or his confederate did the actual killing.
    • The Court looked to the Statute, which the found did not compel felony murder to be extended to situations where a third party did the killing.
  • In a concurrence, it was argued that the real issue was that the storeowner shooting Lloredo was a case of justifiable homicide and is therefore not a crime, so Canola can’t be punished for something that isn’t a crime.