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One Cut: One Found Guilty: All Charged with Felony Murder

April 21, 2018
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Felony Murder:  The rule of felony murder is a legal doctrine in some common law jurisdictions that broadens the crime of murder: when an offender kills (regardless of intent to kill) in the commission of a dangerous or enumerated crime (called a felony in some jurisdictions), he/she is guilty of murder.  Some 46 states in the union have some form of felony murder rule on their statute books. Of those, 11 states unambiguously allow for individuals who commit a felony that ends in a death to be charged with murder even when they were not the agents, of the killing.

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 Is Felony Murder a fair charge to use on underaged youth who witnesses didn’t have anything to do with the crime?  
When I first passed out Eve Porinchak’s One Cut for feedback, I had no idea how much engagement this true crime story would bring to the young adult readers our committee sought feedback from who were either in juvenile detention facilities or in secondarypublic schools and who often identified themselves as nonreaders. This title however caught and held their interests, due to the authenticity of the storyline. Authentic usually means conversational dialogue and environment, but not this time. The characters and environment is just the opposite of most of the youth who participated in feedback. They are mostly browns and blacks while the characters in the story are white middle-class teens in Southern California. What pulls them is that these youth got entangled with the justice system and arrested, some under critical pretense, which is much the conditions of environment they live in that find them being racially profiled and arrested at unprecedented rates. The fact that this injustice happened to white teens too, is what brought about engagement and the fact that the story is a real-life well-written truth is what produced a reason for much dialogue amongst those reading the story. A cohesiveness not often experienced by these reluctant readers.

The events took place when the characters were around the same age group of the readers the book is intended for, highlighting a tragedy of enormous proportions in the teen characters’ world… one in which the ordinary routine of comping reefer, went haywire in an instant. The fact that this occurrence is accounted for some twenty-three years in the past is of no importance, for within the framing of the events, the reader can easily see themselves within the story’s boundaries, for this scenario is still occurring today.

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Due to the court action focus of this story, there is a need to bring about a clear understanding of the legal jargon. An in-depth amount of effort was put forth by the author to bring about a better understanding of the legalese. Ms. Porinchak also devoted extensive time to reviewing individual recounts of the fight that occurred between the six male teen adolescents ending up with one dead and the rest ended with their lives changed forever.

In today’s world of media profiling on youth of color, there’s an added interest in this story for it involves the arrest of young middle class white youth, a so-called drug pickup, and gang affiliation accusations, ending with life without parole for all members in the group. To read a story that involves circumstances similar to what they have mostly known to be associated with a youth of color, but that is instead associated with white upper-middle-class youth is a real event that is next to impossible for them to imagine in their lived world. Most of the youth showing interest are of color and used to being racially profiled by the police. They’re used to being forced, in some instances, to even confess to events they have had nothing to do with…or know of someone who plea-bargained for a lesser conviction of something they didn’t commit, but the people they know are usually of color.

In this 1995 situation which was closely after the OJ trial, there was no apparent plea-bargaining, only two possible sides to the same ending: the perspective of Mike McLoren, a neighborhood drug dealer and his friend and neighbor Jimmy Ferris, who died from the incident; and the perspective of the four young men (Brandon Hein who wielded the knife (life + 8 years), brothers Jason (life + 4 years) and Micah Holland (29 years to life), and Tony who did not get involved but witnessed the event [life w/o [parole]).

 

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These four boys went onto the property of Mike McLoren’s family to the backyard hangout to either buy weed.  Their driver Chris Valardo who was waiting in the car unaware of what was going on received 11 years and was released in 2000. The conflict revolved around Mike’s constant change-up of what happened, of the jury taking Mike’s inconsistent testimonial accounts, and of Chris, the driver receiving as harsh a sentence as the rest of the group which was accused of gang-style activity.  Jimmy, by the way, was the son of a policeman. Now we also have the silent blue line and payback for the slaying of one of theirs’.

The feedback from the student reviews I received was filled with statements referencing corruption of ethics, with most expressing how the judge literally didn’t show empathy towards the youth involved, especially to Chris who was not at the scene of the crime. Many responses were concerned with Chris saying had DNA been available then, it would have cleared him of involvement. Some even speculated that the case would have been thrown out of court, due to Mike’s inconsistent accounts and that the judge was probably associated with Mike’s father through some sort of private affluent leisure club or investment affiliation…incredible insight for youth of today who are now witnesses to repetitive injustice by a public law enforcement and court system so often found to be corrupt, due to a fraternal code of silence.

60 MINUTES TV COVERAGE:  PART 1  & PART 2

NEXT STOP DAY 3: APRIL 22, 2018:  IN THE MARGIN’S WORDPRESS BLOG TOUR WILL FEATURE EVE PORINCHAK’S MUCH ANTICIPATED INTERVIEW on In the Margins Award Website!

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