COA: Death during robbery is felony murder

The Indiana Court of Appeals found evidence was sufficient to uphold a robber’s conviction of felony murder after one of his accomplices was killed in a fight with a robbery victim.

Deante Dalton, Freddie Rhodes and Dretarrius Rodgers went into the home of Brenda Marsh and her family hiding their identities and carrying firearms. Rhodes and Rodgers went downstairs and asked “Where is the stuff?” After telling them where the stuff could be located, Marsh’s daughter’s boyfriend, Norman Gray, then jumped on Rodgers and a fight ensued, during which both were shot. Rodgers later died of his injuries, while Gray recovered.

Dalton and Rhodes left the house just after that with the family’s laptop. Later, police located Dalton and Rhodes. Dalton admitted to committing the robbery with Rhodes and knowing that Rhodes was armed during the robbery. The state charged Dalton with felony murder and he was found guilty. Dalton appealed.

The COA ruled the felony murder statute, Indiana Code 35-42-1-1, says to commit felony murder, a person must kills another person while committing or attempting to commit robbery. The felony murder rule applies when in committing any of the felonies, the felon contributes to the death of any person, so it doesn’t matter whether the death caused is that of the intended victim, a passerby or an accomplice, such as Rodgers.

Dalton claimed the evidence was insufficient to prove his actions were the mediate or immediate cause of Rogers’ death, but the COA disagreed. Dalton engaged in violent and threatening conduct as part of the robbery, including pointing his weapon at his intended victims in a threatening manner. The three all knew the home was occupied, as well. Therefore under the felony murder statute, Dalton had committed murder.

The case is Deante Dalton v. State of Indiana, 20A05-1508-CR-1098.


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