The background is fairly simple. There is a controversial law on the books that allows the state to pursue first-degree murder charges against an individual who did not intend to commit the murder, but was in the process of committing some other forcible felony. As an example, if a man robs a liquor store and the clerk pulls a gun, the man cannot claim self-defense if he kills the clerk first. Instead, it is considered felony murder, the equivalent of first-degree murder. Makes complete sense, right?
Let’s move on to Alabama. You and a bunch of your friends are up to no good. Police spot you and tell you to stop. You do what kids do, and bolt. The police officer opens fire and kills your friend. You have now been charged with felony murder since fleeing law enforcement is considered a felony. Even though you did not pull the trigger, the law holds you responsible for the other teen’s death.
While the first situation makes complete sense, the second example is a gross perversion of the felony murder rule that is used to pin murder charges on mostly Black suspects. Hence, the felony murder rule is a target for police reformers who believe that the system is racist.