A New York teen has been charged with murder after setting a mattress on fire because he was bored.
Marcell Dockery, 16, allegedly told the NYPD that he lit a mattress on fire in a Brooklyn high-rise because "he was bored," reports New York City's WABC-TV. Unfortunately, an NYPD Housing officer who responded to the blaze succumbed to smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Dockery now faces felony murder charges for his death. So what exactly is "felony murder"?
Arson + Death = Murder
Dockery might not have intended to injure or even kill anyone by setting the fire that claimed the life of Officer Dennis Guerra, 38, but in the eyes of the law, that doesn't matter much.
In New York, as in most states, if a person dies as the result of a defendant committing one of a list of inherently dangerous felonies, he or she can be charged with second-degree "felony murder." These dangerous felonies include felonies like robbery, kidnapping, rape, and arson. Unlike first-degree murder, there is no requirement that the defendant intended to kill anyone.
In Dockery's case, the important fact is whether the prosecution can prove that he is guilty of the underlying felony in his felony murder charge: arson.
Second-degree arson in New York requires proof that the defendant:
- Intentionally damaged a building or vehicle by starting a fire, and
- Knew a non-participant would either be in the building or vehicle (or that there was a reasonable possibility for someone to be in the building or vehicle).
If Dockery meant to light the mattress on fire -- for boredom or any other reason -- and knew people would reasonably be in the building, he's likely to be found guilty of arson, as well as felony murder.
Charging a 16-year-old With Felony Murder
Even though second-degree felony murder doesn't make Dockery eligible for the death penalty or life in prison, the teen does face a possible 25 years in prison. New York is somewhat notable for trying most 16- and 17-year-olds as adults instead of in juvenile court, even for minor offenses.
In other states, Dockery may have had a chance to be tried as a juvenile, but his case was likely to be transferred to adult criminal court by juvenile waiver.
The Brooklyn District Attorney may add more charges as the case proceeds.
- Teen Charged With Murder In Coney Island Fire That Killed Cop (New York City's WCBS-TV)
- School Stabbing Suspect, 16, to Be Tried as Adult (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Texas Day Care Fire Was Felony Murder: Jury (FindLaw's Blotter)
- What Is the 'Felony Murder' Rule? (FindLaw's Blotter)