Jose Raman Greer dialed 911 from his third-floor balcony while three men tried to kick in the door of his Atlanta apartment in December 2015. Fearing for his life, Greer jumped from the balcony, suffered multiple fractures, and later died during surgery at a local hospital.
Two of those involved in the home invasion, Mark Spencer and Lil’ Che Stafford, were convicted of felony murder this week and sentenced to life in prison. Here’s a look at the incident and the charge:
Greer leapt to his death while Spencer, Stafford, and another man, Frederick Clark attempted to pry open the door to his apartment, and the three made off with several of Greer’s possessions, including his debit card, laptop, iPhone, and identification, according to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard. “After the defendants exited the apartment and were attempting to flee the scene,” Howard said at a press conference, “Greer, still alive as he lay critically injured from his attempt to escape, asked the defendants for help. Instead of rendering aid, the defendants fled with several items belonging to Greer in tow.”
The men allegedly tried to sell Greer’s property the next day and used his debit card to buy food at McDonald’s. Clark and two men who waited in the getaway car, Maxx Pritchett and Vas Coleman, will also face trial on the same felony murder and burglary charges.
Under the “felony murder” rule, any killing that occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a felony, even if unintentional, can mean murder charges for the person or persons responsible for the felony. Felony murder can even apply regardless of who causes the killing, so a robber could be charged with murder even if a police officer attempting to stop a robbery accidentally shot and killed an innocent passerby.
Felony murder is generally limited to only dangerous felonies like burglary, kidnapping, rape, and robbery, and some statutes require the felony must be a proximate cause of the death. Because the home invasion in this case was a felony, Greer’s death, even though he chose to jump from the balcony, could be charged as murder, with the usual penalties accompanying such a conviction.