If you live in Florida you had better be careful to whom you loan your vehicle.
Ryan Holle found that out the hard way and is serving life in prison because he loaned his car keys to the wrong person.
Holle is now in the 11th year of a life-in-prison sentence (without parole) for a murder that occurred while he was asleep in bed, one and a half miles away. Even the prosecutor who helped send Holle to prison admits he wasn’t at the crime scene and had nothing to do with the actual murder.
All Holle did was hand his car keys to his roommate and three other men on March 10, 2003, after a party. Holle went to bed while Allen and some other men drove Holle’s Chevy Metro car to the house of an alleged marijuana dealer. Holle was drunk when he loaned the car and thought they were going to go get food.
‘It May Not Make Any Sense To You’
The men tried to rob the home and during the robbery attempt one of them, Charles Miller Jr., killed Jessica Snyder, the dealer’s 18-year-old daughter, with a shotgun. Miller, Allen and two accomplices were eventually convicted and sentenced for that crime but so was Holle.
“It may not make any sense to you,” David Rimmer, the man who prosecuted Holle, told the jury at Holle’s trial. “He has to be treated just as if he had done all the things the other four people did.”
At the trial, Rimmer noted that Holle and his friends had been joking around about robbing alleged drug dealer Terry Snyder. Yet Holle, who had no criminal record, didn’t accompany the men or help them with the robbery.
“When they actually mentioned what was going on, I thought it was a joke,” Holle told The New York Times. “I thought they were just playing around. I was just very naïve. Plus from being drinking that night, I just didn’t understand what was going on.”
“It’s just draconian,” Holle’s lawyer, Sharon K. Wilson, said. “The worst thing he was guilty of was partying too much and not being discriminating enough in who he was partying with.”
Snyder said Holle deserved what he got.
“It never would have happened unless Ryan Holle had lent the car,” Snyder said of the murder. “It was as good as if he was there.”
The Felony Murder Rule
Ryan Holle was convicted under a questionable legal doctrine called the felony murder rule. Under that rule, anybody who takes any action that could facilitate a killing can be convicted of murder, whether they were aware of the criminal’s intent or not.
“The felony murder rule serves important interests,” Rimmer said, “because it holds all persons responsible for the actions of each other if they are all participating in the same crime.”
The felony murder rule is actually an old doctrine that is part of British Common Law. Most countries with common law, including India, Canada and the United Kingdom, have abolished it. So have a number of US states, but it is still allowed in many parts of the country.
The Canadian Supreme Court tossed it out, ruling it violated “the principle that punishment must be proportionate to the moral blameworthiness of the offender.”
It has many critics.
“To the best of my knowledge, in the entire history of the criminal justice system in America, no one has ever been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for loaning a car and going to sleep,” Charles Grodin of The Nation wrote. “.. Ryan writes me from prison telling me that when he gets out, he plans to speak out against the Felony Murder Rule. Unless people of good will and common sense publicize his case, Ryan Holle will die in prison.”