Reports say that someone died during the protest/occupation at the Capital building. Given that, is it reasonable that some of the persons who stormed the building could be successfully prosecuted under federal or D.C. felony murder charges?

  • I’m voting to close this question because the situation is far to unclear at the moment. Everything is possible.
    – Trish
    Jan 7, 2021 at 0:53
  • 1
    @Trish Would it be better as, in DC, if someone dies during a riot, can other rioters be successfully prosecuted with felony murder charges. That doesn't encompass the breaking and entering, but it's a start
    – Mobius
    Jan 7, 2021 at 0:56
  • Is there a federal felony murder statute? I can't find it.
    – phoog
    Jan 7, 2021 at 1:03
  • no, the situation you ask about is much more hard to oversea than the Rittenhouse case was in the first hours, and it's a political hothouse. If you could make a good hypothetical where you can define every circumstance, it could become answerable, but the situation at the moment that literally no answer could be ok.
    – Trish
    Jan 7, 2021 at 1:04
  • @phoog Felony murder (not by that name) is covered by 18 U.S. Code § 1111 Jan 11, 2021 at 1:47

2 Answers 2


Not under federal law, where the enumerated felonies are arson, escape, murder, kidnapping, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary, or robbery. Under DC law, the triggering felony may be

arson...first degree sexual abuse, first degree child sexual abuse, first degree cruelty to children, mayhem, robbery, or kidnaping, or in perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate any housebreaking while armed with or using a dangerous weapon, or in perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate a felony involving a controlled substance

The prosecution would have to prove beyond doubt that the shooter was attempting to commit mayhem (the only crime that is imaginably related to the events). But "mayhem" is different from rioting. The elements of mayhem are set forth in the jury instructions, namely intentionally attempting to cause a permanent disabling injury. When the facts are know, we might be able to assess the credibility of a mayhem charge.

  • 1
    That is not an exhaustive list of federal felonies. What is your source for it?
    – phoog
    Jan 7, 2021 at 2:07
  • 1
    @phoog, I linked the statute and actually listed the specific offenses. Why in the world would you think that any felony triggers felony murder?
    – user6726
    Jan 7, 2021 at 5:17
  • 1
    @grovkin does "housebreaking" apply only to a residence? What law says so? Jan 11, 2021 at 1:50
  • 1
    @grovkin Dictionary meanings are often significantly different from statutory meanings. Is there an actual law that defines "housebreaking" in DC? Jan 11, 2021 at 3:36
  • 1
    Housebreaking, defined in D.C. law back in 1882, is nowadays known as burglary in the second degree, and defined in 22–801 of the D.C. Code using pretty much the same language as the 1882 statute (289, 22 Stat. 162) used to define housebreaking. "or other building" definitely applies.
    – JdeBP
    Jan 11, 2021 at 10:45

To build up on the the user6726's answer above, if someone in that crowd took the extra steps which caused the police to believe that there was a threat to life (eg, by yelling something threatening like "kill em all"), then they possibly provoked the shooting. The individuals who did provoke it could conceivably be guilty of mayhem. And, therefore, felony-murder rule would apply. They would almost certainly be guilty if it could be shown that they intentionally made the utterance to provoke a heightened police reaction (such as the shooting).

I am not suggesting that anyone in that crowd screamed the phrase "kill em all", by the way. Although I have seen a claim that someone in that crowd was chanting "hang Pence." Since the Vice President was in the building at the time, that could have been the reason for the police's shooting.

Otherwise, this was a clear case of obstruction of justice. Since the stated intent of their actions was obstructing a Congressional procedure.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .