(NewsNation) — Lawyers for Casey White, who escaped from an Alabama jail with the help of a corrections officer, said he should not face a felony murder charge because it is unconstitutional.
Corrections Officer Vicky White helped Casey White escape the Lauderdale County Jail in Florence, Alabama, on April 29. The two, who are not related, were on the run for 11 days.
The search for them ended when they led U.S. marshals on a chase in Evansville, Indiana, that ended in a crash. Vicky White was rushed to the hospital for a gunshot wound to the head, from which she later died. Her death was ruled a suicide by the local coroner.
NewsNation local affiliate WHNT reported that the State of Alabama is arguing Casey White is legally responsible for the death of Vicky White, and charged him with felony murder. His lawyers say proof beyond a reasonable doubt is necessary to convict someone of a crime, but the felony murder law works differently and should be thrown out.
An indictment charges Casey White with first-degree escape, saying that “in the course and furtherance of committing escape in the first degree,” he caused the death of Vicky White, according to The Birmingham News.
A team of attorneys for Casey White, though, said in a motion that police video shows that Vicky White took her own life. They pointed out that Alabama courts have long held that to prove murder, prosecutors need to show the death did not occur by natural causes, accident or suicide.
“The United States and Alabama remain virtually the only western governments still recognizing a doctrine that makes it possible for a citizen accused to face the most serious sanctions in the law for an accidental death in which they did not directly participate or cause,” the defense said in a court filing, per WHNT.
In addition, the defense said, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken issue before with the concept of charging felony murder, The Birmingham News wrote.
White had been in Lauderdale County Jail at the time of his escape, waiting to be tried in connection with the 2015 death of Connie Ridgeway, 58. He faces a capital murder trial in December, and is currently serving a 75-year prison sentence for a 2015 crime spree, The Birmingham News said.
A trial date had not been set in the felony murder case.