They didn’t have guns when they tried to pull off a carjacking at the King City Food Mart on Warrior Road just before 10:00 pm on January 3, 2018. The twins, Kenneth and Elie Miller, should have known better than to try to take someone else’s car… just as Jordon Johnson and Reynold “Ray Ray” Bonner III had no business trying to rob a man at “Lambs”, a food mart on the west side of Birmingham.  

Kenneth and Elie were only 18 when they snuck up on opposite sides of the already running car; they couldn’t have expected the owner of the vehicle to dash out of the food mart and defend his property and passenger with a gun. During the altercation, both ran away as the owner of the car fired shots at them. When Kenneth looked back, he realized that Elie wasn’t behind him. He returned to find his twin brother had collapsed in the back of the food mart and died.

Kenneth Miller is being charged under Alabama’s “Felony Murder Rule”. The “Felony Murder Rule” is an accomplice law that allows a defendant to be charged with first-degree murder for a killing that occurs while they are committing a dangerous felony. A dangerous felony is considered burglary, kidnapping, terrorism, or carjacking. Therefore, because Kenneth participated in a dangerous felony (a carjacking with his brother Elie), he can be charged with his brother’s murder. The indictment states that Kenneth Miller caused the death of Elie Miller by causing the shooter to justifiably shoot Elie Miller.

A week later Jordan Johnson, another 16-year-old, was charged under the same “Felony Murder Rule”. Reynold “Ray Ray” Bonner III and Jordan were friends and were in cahoots when they decided to try and rob a man at Lambs mini-mart. The two of them had even ridden to the mini mart together with an unnamed and uncharged adult man. During the robbery, the victim fired multiple shots and hit Ray Ray, who was only 14 years old, in the chest. Someone at the scene attempted to perform CPR, but Reynold would be pronounced dead at Birmingham’s children’s hospital.

The law should serve four specific purposes; it should establish standards, it should maintain order, it should resolve disputes, and protect the liberties and rights of all the people under its jurisdiction. The “Felony Murder Rule” doesn’t fit any of those purposes. In fact, I would argue that the “Felony Murder Rule” is a legal fiction that is being used to over-sentence people at the whim of  prosecutors. It encourages the court to ignore facts like the state of mind, intent, and culpability of the accused.

When LaKeith Smith, A’Donte Washington, and three others decided to burglarize homes, Millbrook police officers found themselves in an exchange of gunfire with the teens. Eventually, A’Donte pulled his weapon and came towards an officer, and that officer defended himself (rightfully so). A’Donte was killed, and all of the other teens were charged with his murder. All of the teens were offered a plea deal of 25 years, but LaKeith refused the deal. After his trial, he was sentenced to a total of 65 consecutive years in prison; 30-years for felony murder alone, plus a 15-year sentence for burglary and two 10-year sentences for the two theft convictions.

To be fair, I am not saying that these teens didn’t deserve to be punished; they tried to take things that did not belong to them, and that is against the law. On top of that, LaKeith upset the judge when he didn’t take the proceedings as seriously as he should have. Kenneth, Jordan, and LaKeith should all have to do some time for the crimes that they committed, but they shouldn’t be doing time for murders they didn’t commit.  The “Felony Murder Rule” is antiquated and unconstitutional. It has been abolished in states like Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio. Countries like Ireland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland have also gotten rid of similar unjust doctrine.

Many proponents of the “Felony Murder Rule” believe that it sends a strong message that there are strong consequences for criminal actions. The average citizen doesn’t know anything about this rule until they are knee deep in criminal charges.  Meanwhile, the world’s second-largest private prison provider is digging its heels into Alabama. This means that there will be plenty of room for these teens to spend the majority if not the rest of their lives behind bars.

While there are no private prisons currently being operated in the state as of yet, the GEO Group already owns an unused prison in Perry County. They recently purchased a correctional facility in Shelby County. Plus, they recently acquired the Alabama Therapeutic Education Facility in Columbiana as part of a larger deal. The 724-bed reentry facility is under contract with the Alabama Department of Corrections (although it is not considered a prison because it is a reentry program).  

How do you feel about the “Felony Murder Rule”? Do you feel like this is a just law? Let me know what you think in the comments below. 


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Shout out to my friend  Chef Gene Ettison for sponsoring this article!  Chef Gene is the mastermind behind The Ettison Group (TEG).  TEG is a privately-owned company, dedicated to creating amazing food and beverage experiences. These experiences are created through traditional, yet cutting edge means. The Ettison Group, is a company that ignites the spirit of discovery and adventure for all, with a special focus on providing servicing for those with limited economical means. The vision for The Ettison Group was born in 2016, with a mission to educate and employ people from underserved areas with the skills and wages to defy statistics. The Ettison Group has built its brand on excellence, philanthropy and hard work!

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