HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The 11-day manhunt for Casey and Vicky White ended with Casey White getting captured and the death of Vicky White.
The State of Alabama says Casey White is legally responsible for her death and has charged him with felony murder. But his lawyers say the felony murder law is unconstitutional, arguing the law does not require proof that the accused intended to cause another person’s death.
The defense says proof beyond a reasonable doubt is necessary to convict someone of a crime, but the felony murder law works differently and should be thrown out.
The law’s focus is on a chain of events.
The law reads, “He or she commits or attempts to commit arson in the first degree, burglary in the first or second degree, escape in the first degree, kidnapping in the first degree, rape in the first degree, robbery in any degree, sodomy in the first degree, aggravated child abuse under Section 26-15-3.1, or any other felony clearly dangerous to human life and, in the course of and in furtherance of the crime that he or she is committing or attempting to commit, or in immediate flight therefrom, he or she, or another participant if there be any, causes the death of any person.”
So, if a person commits certain crimes, and during that attempt, someone dies, that’s felony murder.
The defense says that doesn’t make sense, arguing in its court filing: “The United States and Alabama remain virtually the only western governments still recognizing a doctrine which makes it possible for a citizen accused to face the most serious sanctions in the law for an accidental death in which they did not directly participate or cause.”
The felony murder law is aimed at deterrence, says Tim Gann, Madison County’s chief deputy district attorney.
“It’s really designed to one, protect innocent bystanders and two, to discourage violent conduct,” he said.
Casey White is being prosecuted in Lauderdale County, but the law applies across Alabama. And, it can get complicated.
“If you and I decide to do a home invasion this afternoon, we kick a door in here in Huntsville and the homeowner has a rifle, and he shoots at us but misses, and his neighbor standing across the street gets hit and dies — you and I are going to be charged with felony murder,” Gann said. “Because, but for us kicking his door in, he’s not shooting at us to hit the neighbor.”
Vicky White was instrumental in Casey White’s jail escape. After Casey White was captured investigators said he told them the pair didn’t plan to go quietly.
“He said he was probably going to have a shootout at the stake of both of them losing their lives,” said Vanderburg County Sheriff Dave Wedding following Casey White’s May 9 capture.
The defense argues in its court filing that Vicky White shot herself. Gann says an issue in the case will be whether that outcome — after the escape and manhunt — was foreseeable or not.
“If you’re escaping from the police, you’ve been on this long chase, here come the cops, ‘I can’t take this, I’m going to end it all.’ I think that is where the argument is going to be,” Gann said.
The defense also points out that Alabama courts have long held that to prove murder, prosecutors must show the death did not occur by natural causes, accident or suicide.