UPDATE! ‘Why would you just come out shooting?’

| August 18, 2019

Lake County prosecutor defends murder charges against teens whose friend was killed during attempted car theft, saying teens ‘ultimately were responsible for the death

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim speaks at a news conference on Aug. 13, 2019, at Daniel Wright Junior High School, Lincolnshire, Ill. (Victor Hilitski / for the Chicago Tribune)

Lake County’s top prosecutor on Thursday defended his decision to charge five teens with murder after their companion was shot while police said they were trying to steal a car, saying he believed the teens, while not behind the trigger of a gun, were ultimately responsible for the loss of the 14-year-old’s life.

State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim also offered a few new details about what authorities say happened in the incident, alleging the teens carried a 10-inch knife with them that night and that the owner said he fired his gun to “scare them away,” but one of the shots struck one of the teens.

Responding in a written statement to what he described as “a few citizen inquiries” regarding the charges, Nerheim said he wanted to be “direct and forthright in explaining my decision-making process and evaluation of this crime.”

The charges filed earlier this week have drawn some condemnation from family of the teen who died, 14-year-old Ja’quan Swopes, and questions about whether Lake County officials would attempt to bring any charges against the homeowner who fired on him. Critics of law enforcement’s use of the so-called felony murder rule say this week’s charges are an example of why the law should be reformed.

In his statement, Nerheim did not disclose whether charges had been considered against the shooter, but said he believed the teens were the ones responsible for the death.

The entire article may be viewed here: Chicago Tribune

Hat tip to Ex for the link.

Category: "Teh Stoopid", Crime, Guest Link, Legal, Police

Comments (13)

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  1. ninja says:

    “The felony murder rule has been part of Illinois law since 2017. It allows prosecutors to charge anyone involved in a murder to be charged, even if they didn’t pull the trigger.”

    “The statute still stands in 44 states, but nearby Michigan and Kentucky have both done away with it. In California, a new law scales back a prosecutor’s ability to use felony murder when charging accomplices.”

    • rgr769 says:

      The felony murder rule has been part of English Common Law since about 1417. It has been part of our common law since before we became an independent nation. Judges were ordering people hanged for felony murder for over a hundred years in this country.

  2. ninja says:

    “The Felony Murder Rule Has Roots Dating Back Centuries. This Week, It Was Applied To 5 Chicago Teens Charged In a Fatal Lake County Shooting.”


    “The legal doctrine by which five Chicago teens were charged with murder after a companion of theirs was fatally shot in Lake County is known as the felony murder rule.”

    “Illinois law allows murder charges to be filed when someone is killed during the commission of certain felonies, even if the death is at the hands of someone else, and the defendant never intended for anyone to die.”

    “The controversial law is meant to be a deterrent to crimes that could result in someone getting hurt or killed. It applies in cases of “forcible” or violent crimes including but not limited to rape, vehicular hijacking, arson and robbery.”

    “Illinois has one of the broadest interpretations of the felony murder law in the country. Forty-four states and the federal government have some form of the felony murder rule, according to Restore Justice, a nonprofit legal advocacy group. Illinois is among a minority of states that still uses the “proximate cause” theory, which holds defendants accountable for any foreseeable deaths that occur during the commission of a felony.”

    “Other states follow the more narrow “agency theory,” which holds defendants liable only for deaths that they or their co-defendants cause directly.”

    “The felony murder rule has roots dating back for centuries. It has long been criticized as an overreach. England abolished it years ago, as have several other countries and states.”

  3. UpNorth says:

    As far as I know, Michigan still has the felony murder statute. “2. Michigan is the first state to abolish the felony murder rule judicially. A Michigan statute does, however, mandate the application of the felony murder doctrine in some instances. MICH.Cotp. LAWS ANN. §§ 750.316, .317 (Cum. Supp. 1980). State legislatures have abolished the felony murder rule in Kentucky, Hawaii, and Ohio. See infra note 62 and accompanying text”.

  4. 5th/77th FA says:

    “Behold my field of f^cks. It is barren and I have zero f^cks to give.”

    I do not have a racist bone in my body, never have and never will. And you can’t get much deeper into the Southlands than I am. I believe that every person should have the same equal right to stub out their camel, get off their ass, pick up a shovel, and go to work. I, and my siblings were raised to respect ALL people by a widowed Mother. We had NONE of the benefits available to minorities for the “free sh^t army” food, housing, scholarships, money, ect. There are many others, on this site, that were raised the same way.

    I am willing to place a wager that before this latest sh^t storm is over that the proverbial “card” WILL be played and the homeowner WILL have a civil “wrongful death” suit served up. Same with the county officials that are bringing these charges on the thugs. Illinois will change/modify the laws and these perps will get off with a wrist slap.

    All of that being said, what % of the population commits the greatest % of crime in this country? I wait right here.

  5. The Other Whitey says:

    The felony murder rule is simply common sense. You got your buddy to do something illegal to somebody. Your would-be victim defended themselves. Your buddy was killed. Your buddy wouldn’t have been killed if you hadn’t gotten him to commit the crime in the first place. Thusly, your buddy’s death is your fault, not that of the victim who defended themselves and/or their property.

    If Ja’quan’s “overprotective” mommy wants someone to blame, she can blame her delinquent dipshit nephews who got him into trouble.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Play stupid games, win stupid prizes…

  7. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    I was under the impression that if you -accidentally- shoot someone, versus deliberately, it cannot be justified even if the circumstances warrant deliberate deadly force.

    Is that actually a legal thing, or gun-mag whooie?

    • FuzeVT says:

      I was wondering about that. If he was just trying to “scare them away”, he still had to be shooting DIRECTLY at them to score (even an accidental) head shot.
      If I ever ever have to scare someone away, I’m sure the sound of my SKS ramming 7.62mm’s of diplomacy into the chamber will suffice. Any shooting that subsequently occurs will be well aimed with lethal intent. Shooting in the air (really bad) or into the ground (only marginally better) is not good for the community at large. Shooting “scare-away” shots toward the perps sounds a lot like just shooting AT them. My 20 years as an officer fined tuned my seeing through the bullshit filter and that’s what I came up with.

      • timactual says:

        Bullshit or not, if I were on the jury he would walk. “There but for the grace of God, go I”.

        Any shooting into the air he did was probably nothing compared to the amount of lead flying through the air during hunting season(s).

        • UpNorth says:

          Not to mention all of the projectiles fired upward on New Year’s Eve that eventually fall back to earth.
          If I had to work patrol on NYE, we always looked for a freeway overpass or covered parking ramp to sit under until the firefights died down.

    • jim h says:

      it really comes down to the totality of the circumstances. and here is the totality: one lone 75 year old, in the dark night, in a very rural area, against 5-6 young males, on his property, at least one of whom was armed with a deadly weapon. i presume more had at least weapons of opportunity since we’re talking boosting cars. the issue is not the shooting, the issue is whether he should have stayed inside or if he was legally justified in investigating as opposed to calling the po po. different states have different perspectives on that.

      note that we also dont know what was said or done in the seconds leading up to the shooting, and those important details lend further context here.

      other details here: he apparently did not continue to fire or engage in a firefight with the others. had he continued to mag dump, he certainly would have been in a world of shit, because a decent prosecutor could make the “intent” argument.

      this will get ugly, but the facts do not lean towards intent to murder or willful neglect from what i have read, at present. and certainly the baby momma’s statements do not do the potential prosecutor any favors if they choose to charge the old man. in essence, she has sunk their case before it ever really began.

      to more specifically answer your question, that’s typical boiler plate from a gun mag that doesnt want to become entangled in legal proceedings.

      @FuzeVT: you hit the proverbial nail on the head. it is almost universally frowned upon to discharge a firearm with the intent to “scare them away” precisely because you own everything in the path of the bullet. painting in very broad terms, if you draw down, there is a use of force. if you fire, you fire for effect. even firing in the air is verboten because gravity is a law, not a suggestion.

  8. docduracoat says:

    Andrew Branca over at law of self defense did his usual interesting analysis of this case.
    He says this was a rural area and the normal delayed police response makes it reasonable for the homeowner to exit the house to investigate. In an urban area, with its more rapid response, it might not be reasonable to leave the safety of the house.

    He also said the disparity of force was enough to justify the elderly man firing on the mob of teens.Even without the bowie knife found at the scene.

    Also reminded us never to talk to the press. Any statement to reporters is done by your lawyer.

    He said the news headline should have read “Elderly homeowner defends against gang of murderous car thieves.”