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  • WisBar News
    November 11, 2014

    Supreme Court May Clarify Evidence Necessary in Felony Murder Case

    Joe Forward
    Legal Writer

    Nov. 11, 2014 – The Wisconsin Supreme Court may decide whether the was sufficient evidence to convict Maltese Williams of felony murder while clarifying whether courts must measure evidence against jury instructions or against statutory requirements.

    The state appeals court has certified State v. Williams for supreme court review, noting uncertainty as to what case controls – State v. Wulf or State v. Beamon – in determining whether evidence was sufficient to convict Williams on two counts of felony murder.

    A jury found that Williams and accomplices were committing armed robbery when two men were killed. They were trying to rob a drug dealer’s marijuana. The drug dealer (Parker) was shot along with a man (Robinson) who was present in Parker’s home.

    In the certification, the appeals court questioned whether Williams could be convicted on two counts of felony murder if only one person, the drug dealer, had a possessory or ownership interest in the marijuana that Williams and others were attempting to rob.

    “This is significant because the jury was instructed that Williams could be found guilty of the felony murder of Robinson only if there was an attempted armed robbery of Robinson,” the state appeals court noted in its certification to the supreme court.

    The appeals court noted that if the sufficiency of the evidence is measured against the jury instructions, the evidence does not appear sufficient to support the felony murder relating to Robinson because no predicate felony was committed against Robinson.

    “On the other hand, we perceive no dispute that, under the applicable statutory scheme, all that was required to sustain a conviction on the felony murder count for Robinson’s death was proof of an attempted robbery of Parker,” the certification explains.

    So do the jury instructions or the statute control? Williams says the jury instructions control under State v. Wulf, in which the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed a conviction after measuring the sufficiency of evidence under the jury instructions.

    The State says the statute controls under Beamon, in which the supreme court measured the sufficiency of the evidence against the statutory requirements and not the jury instructions in determining that a defendant was guilty of attempting to elude police.

    The supreme court will review the case if at least four justices on the seven-member court agree to review it.

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