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Criminal justice advocates want repeal of Arizona's felony murder statute

Criminal justice advocates want lawmakers to repeal Arizona’s felony murder statute, which allows a person to be convicted of first-degree murder, even if they did not actually kill anyone.

The charge can be brought when someone commits certain felonies, and someone else dies in the course of the crime. If convicted, it comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.

“Under this statute, a person can be charged and convicted of first degree murder even if they did not actually kill the victim or intend to create harm,” said Caroline Isaacs, executive director of Just Communities Arizona. “They simply had to be in the act of committing a felony.”

Democratic Rep. Domingo DeGrazia sponsored a bill to repeal the statute, but it was never given a hearing in the House before a legislative deadline last Friday.

Advocates are now asking that lawmakers at least form a study committee on the issue. According to Isaacs, nine other states have repealed or heavily amended their felony murder statutes

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.