"Felony murder rule" in effect for Waffle House suspect arraigned Tuesday
COLUMBIA – An arraignment was held on Tuesday afternoon for Matthew McMillan, who was involved in the events that led to the shooting of 30-year-old Anthony Warren at a Waffle House on New Years Day.
He is facing a long list of charges, including second-degree murder, even though he didn't fire the bullet that killed Warren. Attorneys said the murder charge comes into play because McMillan is accused of committing a felony leading up to Warren's death.
According to the probable cause statement, McMillan and another man had been arguing inside of the Waffle House, when McMillan pulled a gun out of his pants. The two men struggled over the gun and two shots were fired. One bullet struck the other man.
John James from Columbia’s James Law Group said those events invoked the felony murder rule.
“That means, if you’re committing a felony and someone dies in the course of your felony, because of your felony, you’re responsible for that death,” he said.
James said such cases aren't unusual.
“The classic example is if you’re involved in a robbery of a store and maybe your partner has the gun and you plan is to rob the store, get the cash and leave, but he kills the clerk. You’re responsible for that murder even though you didn’t pull the trigger,” he said.
It was the argument and gunfire that drew in the security guard that shot Warren.
He told police he got McMillan and the other man to put down the gun they were struggling over. Then, the guard said, he began to feel threatened by the crowd, Warren in particular, which led him to shoot Warren.
Many people, including Warren’s family, are wondering why the security guard hasn't been charged with murder.
James said one legal possibility is reasonable fear.
“Basically, if you’re being attacked, you have a right to defend yourself,” James said. “If he had a reasonable fear of immediate, serious, physical injury or permanent injury, death, then he is justified in using lethal force and defending himself.”
The guard could still be charged with murder if the prosecutor decides he had no reason to fear for his life.
“That’s where a jury comes in. That’s where common sense comes in. That’s where ordinary people come, and a prosecutor as well is using that judgment right now in determining whether or not he can make a case against the security guard,” James said.
James said there are a lot of grey areas and that a surveillance video, if released, would answer a lot of questions.
Until the next hearing, the family is focusing on standing up for Warren.
The family's attorney, Julia Bonham said, “The family’s primary focus this entire time has been justice for Anthony, so whatever achieves justice for Anthony, the family is behind."
McMillan's next court date is set for Feb. 7.