Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Law of Parties - Is it Fair?

The Law of Parties is a Felony Murder Rule

The Law of Parties is Texas' Felony murder rule. It means, that in the eyes of the law, a person can be held criminally responsible for the actions of another if she conspires, aids and abets that person. However, the Law of Parties is different to the Felony Murder Rule in other jurisdictions, especially when it comes to cases where the death penalty is on the table. In essence, in Texas, someone convicted of murder under the Law of Parties can face the death penalty as well as the person who carried out the deed. 

The Texas Moratorium Network led a bill, in 2009, attempting to bring an end to people receiving the death penalty if they were convicted under the Law of Parties. Despite being approved by the Texas House of Representatives, the bill was not passed by the senate. And so, to this day, people are still convicted and sentenced to death under this law, despite not committing the deed. 

Robert Lynn Pruett - He was sentenced to 99 years in prison at the grand old age of 15, after his neighbour was murdered by his father. Because prosecutors decided Pruett's father would not have killed the man had Pruett not incited him by insinuating the man was harassing and verbally abusing him, Robert Pruett was convicted under the Law of Parties. In April 2002, Pruett was convicted of the murder of a prison officer and sentence to death. He is currently appealing his, incredibly shaky, conviction. 

Ray Jasper - Convicted of the 1998 murder of studio boss, David Alejandro. He and two accomplices broke into property owned by Mr Alejandro intending to steal expensive stereo equipment. However, the victim happened upon the three robbers and while Jasper admitted to cutting the victim's throat, he was insistent this was only after his two accomplices delivered over 25 fatal stab wounds to Mr Alejandro. He was convicted under the Law of Parties and sentenced to death in 2000. In March 2014, Ray Jasper was executed by lethal injection. 

Clinton Lee Young - Was sentenced to death under the law of parties after he was deemed as responsible as two co-defendants for the brutal murder of two men for their cars. During the trial, it was Young who was deemed to be the gun man, whereas Young has always denied being the shooter. He is currently in Texas' Polunksy Unit waiting on the results of various appeals. 

So, what is your view of the Law of Parties? Is a 15 year old really responsible for the actions of a grown man? and did he really deserve a full life sentence at such a young age. Or do you think people, such as Jasper and Young, use the Law of Parties, to try and claim their innocence for a crime they actually did commit? 

Many campaigners are against the controversial
Law of Parties. 


  1. I think an execution based on the "law of parties" is quite simply barbaric. I wish you could use better examples though. Robert Pruett is not being executed for the law of parties, he was originally incarcerated under the law of parties. Let's be clear about one thing, but not for the actions of Robert Pruet, Mr. Yarborough (the victim) would have lived another day. In the instant case (the death penalty case), it was a capital murder case because of the corrections officer.

    Ray Jasper, while he contended that he only "slit the throat" and his co defendants committed the actual murder, this was a law of parties case because the medical examiner could not substantiate which of the many fatal wounds caused the death of the victim.

    Clinton Young, not charged under the law of parties, but instead "during the scheme of multiple crimes" including kidnapping, robbery and murder. Mr. Young contends that his codefendants committed the actual murders, however Mr. Young was the only one found in possession of the murder weapon, the victim's vehicle, and the mobile phone that was used for contact with his (Mr.Youngs) girlfriend.

    All of these men are guilty, there is absolutely no doubt in the record, or in the appellate reviews. If we can start there we have a chance to fight the death penalty. But if our approach remains that men such as the ones you highlight might actually be innocent, we only step further back when further investigation shows they were not.

    Not of these three men are poster boys, ALL three of these men were exactly where they belonged (behind bars). Ray Jasper has been executed so there is no point in going over his case, he was not innocent.

    No disrespect, but these kind of blog are a huge disservice to the abolition movement.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment, while I totally agree it is a little confusing I have made it clear Pruett was originally convicted and sentenced to 99 years for his role in the neighbor's death. For that crime he is most definitely guilty. The Law of Parties just doesn't sit well with me, although I agree with you that Pruett caused the death. I can't get past the fact that it was his father who made the decision to stab and end the man's life. Pruett Sr was a grown man with a stunning array of past crimes and yet his 15 year old son was given a harsher sentence? I know Pruett Jr is no angel by a long chalk but I just can't reconcile it in my head. Lisa Coleman was convicted of the murder and neglect of her girlfriend's son, it was an horrific example of abuse. BOTH women were convicted of murder, yet Coleman was sentenced to death (executed this past September) and her girlfriend received a life sentence. How is that make sense?

    I don't write my blog with an express interest in representing a for or against the death penalty opinion. I write it because I have a genuine interest in this part of the American justice system. I am learning as I go along and fully expect others to know more than I. My primary goal is to be fair, I welcome and respect ALL opinions, be they for or against capital punishment. I, myself, do not want to go too much into my own views and beliefs because it isn't about me. However, I suspect they differ greatly from yours. Thanks again for commenting.

  3. The Coleman case is a perfect example of "offered a deal and refused" so they throw the book at her. Her conviction and sentence do bother me, but the fact is the mother of the child was willing to testify against Coleman and took a plea to avoid trial. This is common in capital murder cases. He who speaks first is usually spared and believed as the State grabs its pound of flesh.
    Neither woman was completely innocent in that young mans case. Both women neglected the child, the mother pointed the finger at her lover and took a deal.
    That is a particular problem with the death penalty, I will take it a step further and ask you why the Green River Killer got life, and someone like Ray Jasper gets the death penalty is exactly my issue with the death penalty, that when sold to the american public, was reserved for the "worst of the worst".
    There are a lot worse people than Clinton Young serving life sentences. The arbitrariness is absurd.
    The law of parties was originally to include the people who say hire a hitman, or conspire with a commission of a crime. However the law is being so abused by some prosecutors I fear that one day the passenger of a speeding vehicle will be given an accomplice ticket for failure to compel the driver to slow down.
    Boggles the mind.

    1. Thank you once again for a comment well said. I have to admit,I started this blog because I have a genuine interest in American justice, in particular the death penalty. I am in the UK and we no longer have capital punishment, which I think is why the American system has always fascinated me. I am far FAR from an expert and I am still learning a lot as I go along. Every once in a while, I will read or watch something that makes me re-evaluate the way I think. I have to admit, your last comment did just that. I am very familiar with the Green River Killer, I covered him extensively during a project I was doing for my degree. His crimes were heinous, and his name will be remembered long after anyone involved is dead and gone. And yet, he wasn't given the death penalty? the ultimate price for the ultimate crime. He didn't just take one life, he took 49 (and more!). That DOES boggle my mind. I am pretty sure embarrassment on behalf of the police and other agencies played a part in this. After all, he should of been nailed a few times but he wasn't. Anyway,you have given me food for thought really and for that I thank you. I believe we can all stand to have our eyes opened or our minds widened by others once in a while and your comment certainly did that to me. I look forward to more contributions from you in the future.