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SCARS|RSN™ Insight: Are Scams Manslaughter or Murder? The SCARS Doctrine

Our data suggest that 10 to 15 people commit suicide every day resulting from Romance Scams!

Let us ask you a question?

In most developed countries, if someone dies during a crime it is murder or at least manslaughter!

A death that occurs during the commission or attempted commission of any felony constitutes murder” is the classic definition of the felony murder doctrine. This doctrine has been roundly criticized and narrowed by commentators and legislators, yet it still exists in some form or other in nearly all U.S. states and most developed countries. Modern statutes make it first-degree murder when the death occurs during very serious, specified felonies, such as rape, robbery, burglary, and arson. Deaths occurring during the commission of all other felonies become second-degree murder.

Unintentional Death

The rule applies whether the felon kills intentionally, recklessly, or even accidentally; and even when the death was unforeseeable. For example, a robber whose gun discharges by mistake, killing a bystander, can be charged with felony murder. And, a killing by a codefendant can be attributed to the defendant, as when one of two robbers kills a victim, then is himself killed– the surviving partner can be charged with felony murder.

As these examples illustrate, a perpetrator can end-up charged with murder in the most attenuated circumstances. The problem here is that normally, first-degree murder requires that the prosecutor prove that the defendant intended the death and had a state of mind called “malice.” Broadly speaking, malice is evidence of a “depraved heart,” or an evil state of mind. Prosecutors get around the malice requirement by arguing that the intention that propelled the underlying felony constituted “implied malice.”

The Rationale Behind the Felony Murder Rule

Several theories attempt to justify the felony murder rule, though they find little support in legal scholarship. The most common one is to claim that the felony murder rule deters crime. This theory argues that if would-be felons realized that they’ll face murder charges if an accidental death happens during the offense, these folks will re-think their crime plans (or at least commit their offenses more carefully). The trouble is, reason doesn’t support this argument (how does one deter an unintended act?). And, no empirical data supports this argument.

Limits on the Rule: All Felonies?

As noted earlier, modern laws differentiate between inherently dangerous, serious felonies, and all others. First-degree murder applies to deaths occurring in the former group, second-degree to those in the latter.

Some courts identify “inherently dangerous” crimes by analyzing them in the abstract, and asking whether by their very nature, there’s a substantial likelihood that a killing will result. Other courts examine the facts of the individual cases before them, and decide on a case-by-case basis whether, given the circumstances and the defendant’s conduct, the death should be considered first- or second-degree murder.

The above is courtesy of www.Lawyers.com

We presented the above because we now believe that deaths ARE occurring as a direct result of Romance and other forms of Online Fraud. But specifically in the case of Romance Scams.

In a recent landmark case: A young Massachusetts girlfriend of a boy that committed suicide was convicted of driving her boyfriend to commit suicide – by texting him to “get back in” his carbon monoxide-filled car – was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. This was a form of socially engineered manipulation. Read about it here: https://nypost.com/2017/08/03/suicide-text-girlfriend-sentenced-to-2-5-years-in-prison/

So then the question is: if romance scam victims commit suicide directly resulting from the manipulation, humiliation, and financial loss caused by the romance scam (which is a felony) then should not the scammer also be charged with Felony Murder – at least 2nd Degree?

This hypothesis presents a unique and interesting opportunity to change the nature of attention to romance scams.

This would result in changing it from strictly a financial crime, to a crime of violence that does result in deaths.

Currently, lawmakers, governments, and law enforcement view romance scams as a minor crime resulting in financial loss. As any victim could tell you, this is violence!

However, if we can directly connect the act of engineered manipulation, just as int he case of the girlfriend above, to the death of a victim – even at their own hands – then it will radically change the nature and perception of these crimes.

It can also be done at the local state level too, which makes it vastly easier to enact.

Additionally, murder is a crime that almost all countries will extradite a suspect for. Meaning that even though Africa does not really care about scams, there are extradition treaties in place for crimes such as murder.

We will be exploring this further with our own legal team and our network of legal scholars. But we would like to hear from you about your thoughts and willingness to take the matter up with your elected representatives. We believe this “SCARS Doctrine” concept can forever change the way romance scams are viewed and enforced.

Please share your thoughts on this, and if there are any attorneys reading this, please speak up or contact us directly at [email protected]

Copyright © 2018 Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams [SCARS]