Published in Constitutional Law Quarterly, “Why California's Second-Degree Felony-Murder Rule is Now Unconstitutionally Vague” is already creating a stir in prison populations across the state.
“Several inmates are using the article as a blueprint to challenge their convictions,” says Professor Lee. “In fact, former Justice Cruz Reynoso enlisted the help of a firm to mount one of these challenges on behalf of a lifer he has represented for more than 30 years.”
For years, justices on the California Supreme Court (CSC) have engaged in public soul-searching about whether to overrule the state’s second-degree felony-murder doctrine. Now there is a powerful external reason for the CSC to revisit the question: The United States Supreme Court has just struck down the so-called “residual clause” of the federal three-strikes statute as unconstitutionally vague.
Although the immediate intuition of experienced judges and lawyers will be to deny that this decision has any application to the felony-murder rule, Professor Lee demonstrates that, from the standpoint of vagueness, the two provisions are materially indistinguishable.