Indiana Felony Murder Statute Amounts To Rude Awakening For Suspects In Some Criminal Cases

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 21, 2013 Updated Jun 21, 2013 at 5:52 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) --- A 16-year old Fort Wayne boy has a hearing June 26th to determine his trial date in a serious criminal case.

The teen is at risk of being sentenced for murder, even though he didn't actually kill anyone.

It has to do with an unusual part of Indiana's criminal code, the felony murder statute.

Maybe 16-year old Omar Ruffin never thought anyone would get hurt, but prosecutors say he agreed to get involved in daring robbery that ended badly for his alleged partner, and as a result, he could be held responsible for a death when someone else pulled the trigger.

Ruffin is charged with felony murder and attempted robbery.

June first, police say Ruffin and 18-year old Jacqueze Dandridge jumped up on a porch of a home near the intersection of South Wayne and West Packard and pulled guns on two men, for the purpose of robbing them.

Dandridge got involved in a fight over a gun with one of the victims, and was shot and killed.

Ruffin was charged, though he was on the other side of the house at the time of the confrontation.

Fort Wayne attorney Michelle Kraus says the law is no accident, that it's meant to hold suspects accountable when they start down a slippery slope.

Kraus laid out a scenario that's common when crimes such as robbery go down.

"They both set out with only the intent to break and enter and steal somebody's stuff, and all of a sudden, under those circumstances, they can be charged and very likely be convicted of the felony murder statute, because of the way that that's written," Kraus said.

In the 1990's, Kraus represented Damion Harris, who got 60 years for killing grocery store owner Jim Didier.

She says Harris remained adamant throughout his case that he never meant to kill Didier, but because Didier was shot and killed during a holdup, the jury convicted Harris of felony murder and he will be serving time for years to come.




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