My name is James Goble,
In January of 1973, I was convicted under the old felony murder law prior to the Michigan Supreme Court ruling in People v Aaron 1980, and sentenced to a mandatory life sentence. I am now 71-years-old and have spent the past 49 years in prison. I have enclosed 2 letters written by my sentencing judge and an affidavit from the victim's mother.
Until 1980, a person who committed a felony in which someone died was automatically charged with first-degree felony murder, and all participants in the felony could be held equally culpable, including those who did no harm, had no weapon, and did not intend to hurt anyone. The Felony Murder Doctrine presumed the intent to kill (or malice) of all participants in the underlying felony. It did not matter if death occurred from fright or by accident - it was still first-degree felony murder. The punishment was a mandatory Life without parole sentence.
In "People y Aaron," 409 Mich 672 November 24, 1980, the Michigan Supreme Court changed the interpretation of this law declaring the felony murder doctrine violates the basic premise of individual moral culpability and clarifying that it must be proven a person committed the crime with malice and intent to kill or do great bodily harm. Malice could not be assumed simply based on the participation in the felony in which someone was killed.
Unfortunately, the Michigan Supreme Court did not resolve the erroneous felony murder convictions prior to November 24, 1980. After abrogating the common-law felony murder rule, and recognizing the harshness and inequity of the rule, the Aaron court held that the decision "Shall apply to all trials in progress and those occurring after the date of its opinion." Had my trial been held after this date, I could not have been found guilty of first-degree murder. However, after 49 years in prison, I am still serving a Life without parole sentence: convicted under a legal theory that no longer exists. I cannot get out of prison unless granted a pardon, commutation, or legislation is enacted.
In some cases, the old felony murder was grossly disproportionate to the crimes actually committed. The degree to which some of these individuals are responsible often varies enormously. However, mitigating factors cannot be considered by judges or the parole board due to their mandatory Life without parole sentence. The purpose of creating varying degrees of murder charges is to punish intentional killing more severely than accidental killing. Is it right that an unplanned, unintentional, or accidental death be treated the same as premeditated, cold-blooded murder?
Now is the time to rectify this injustice. This year, Michigan legislatures must work together to pass legislation aimed squarely at this 41-year-old injustice. Legislatures must focus on fair and equal justice and pass legislation that will give the Parole Board jurisdiction over all pre-Aaron cases. This will allow individuals like myself convicted of first-degree felony murder before November 24, 1980, to be considered for parole after 40 years from the date of their conviction.
I, declare the information contained herein, to be truthful and accurate in accordance with federal law 28 USC 1746.
Please write me directly or Email me
James Goble #134913
3500 N. Elm Road
Jackson, MI 49201