Tennessee v. Middlebrooks Page 16

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Media for Tennessee v. Middlebrooks

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 01, 1993 in Tennessee v. Middlebrooks

David H. Souter:

Mr. Stebbins--

David C. Stebbins:

Yes.

David H. Souter:

--just a question of Tennessee law.

Is a nonpremeditated killing in the course of a felony, other than those listed, murder under Tennessee law?

David C. Stebbins:

A nonpremeditated killing during the course of an unlisted--

David H. Souter:

An unlisted felony.

David C. Stebbins:

--The fact that it was committed during another felony that's not listed in the first degree murder statute would have no effect on it.

There is no second degree felony murder in Tennessee.

David H. Souter:

So it wouldn't be murder at all.

David C. Stebbins:

Correct.

It might be involuntary manslaughter, but it could not be murder.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, how... are you sure that's the correct answer, Mr. Stebbins?

Certainly, at common law, Justice Souter's hypothesis, intentional but not premeditated killing was traditional second degree murder.

Tennessee doesn't regard that as murder?

David C. Stebbins:

Perhaps I got the hypothetical wrong.

William H. Rehnquist:

I may have misunderstood his--

--No, my hypo was, it is a nonpremeditated killing, and it is not committed in the course of one of the listed felonies.

Can that be murder under Tennessee law?

David C. Stebbins:

If it was an intentional murder, it would be murder.

David H. Souter:

So there is a narrowing, then, that does indeed go on.

David C. Stebbins:

Yes, but the fact it would require intent, and the fact that a nonlisted felony was also committed would have no effect at all on the determination that it's murder.

It's irrelevant.

David H. Souter:

The fact of the felony would be irrelevant, but it would still be classified as murder if it was an intentional killing.

David C. Stebbins:

If it was an intentional killing, it would be classified as second degree murder, that's correct, Your Honor.

If the Court has no further questions, thank you.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Counsel, as I understand your argument, just before you subside, Justice Ginsburg asked you a question about a robbery with an intentional murder and a robbery with a reckless murder.

I take it... let's have a third hypothetical.

Let's say there's just a sniper who does not enter the house.

He kills the homeowner intentionally.

That person must be subject to the death penalty only if there is an aggravating circumstance, correct?