State v. Stewart
Defendant gave birth to a son who died after 52 days from dehydration. In the week prior to the baby's death, defendant, the father, and a friend ingested cocaine repeatedly for two or three days. The baby was present during this binge, but was never fed or cared for during this time.
Defendant was arrested and indicted on charges of second-degree murder, wrongfully causing or permitting a child under the age of eighteen to be a habitual sufferer for want of food and proper care, and manslaughter. The second-degree murder charge was based on the felony murder rule with wrongfully permitting a child to be a habitual sufferer as an inherently dangerous felony.
Jury found defendant guilty of second-degree murder.
Can wrongfully permitting a child to be a habitual sufferer be an inherently dangerous felony?
California's rule that a felony must be considered in the abstract and that if a statute can be violated without endangering human life it is not inherently dangerous should not be adopted in Rhode Island. The better approach is for the trier of fact to determine if the felony was inherently dangerous in the manner and circumstances in which it was committed. This is how the jury was instructed, and thus its finding of guilt must mean that defendant's crime was inherently dangerous.
Yes, a jury can find that wrongfully permitting a child to is a habitual sufferer be an inherently dangerous felony. Affirmed.