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In the US, you don’t have to kill to be a murderer

Image copyright WSFA 12 News
Image caption Lakeith Smith at his sentencing

After police killed a burglary suspect in a shootout, the officer was not charged – instead a teenage boy who did not fire the gun has been found guilty of his murder. How do accomplice liability laws work?

Lakeith Smith was 15 years old when he went along with four older friends on a burglary spree. A neighbour called police when the group went into a home in Millbrook, Alabama, and the responding officers surprised the teenagers as they were coming through the front door.

The group turned and fled out the back door, and a shootout ensued. When it was all over, 16-year-old A'Donte Washington was dead with a bullet wound to his neck.

It's never been in dispute that a Millbrook police officer shot and killed Washington – officer-worn body cameras captured the fatal confrontation. A grand jury declined to charge the officer, finding that the shooting was justified.

Instead, Smith was charged and found guilty of his friend's murder. Last week, a judge sentenced him to 65 years in prison. Under Alabama's accomplice liability law, Smith is considered just as culpable in Washington's death as if he had pulled the trigger himself.

"It's sad in my opinion," says Smith's defence lawyer, Jennifer Holton. "The cause of death was the officer's action."

Image copyright Elmore County Sheriff
Image caption Lakeith Smith after his arrest in 2015

Alabama's law is an example of so-called felony-murder laws and they are very common throughout the US – only seven states do not have some type of law that expands the definition of murder to include an unintentional killing in the course of committing a felony. These laws also sweep up accomplices who, again, may not have directly caused harm, but were still a party in the felony that preceded the death.

While rooted in English common law, felony-murder is a rare concept outside of the US.

"Felony-murder is a lovely American fiction," says Michael Heyman, professor emeritus at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. "It's a fiction in that it attributes a killing to you that you need not have done by your own hand."

For example, if a victim has a heart attack and dies while being robbed, the perpetrator can be charged with murder even if he had no intent to kill. If the robber's friend was sitting in a getaway car a block away, under accomplice liability, he too can be charged with murder. One of the most famous examples involved a man convicted of murder for loaning his car to friends who went on to murder an 18-year-old girl. According to prosecutors, it didn't matter that he was 30 minutes away.

These laws make cases like Smith's surprisingly common, where defendants are charged with the murder of their own accomplices, who can be their friends and even relatives. These often occur in the course of burglaries gone wrong, when the perpetrators are confronted by police or armed homeowners. Recent examples include cases in Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma.

The legal logic has expanded into the opioid crisis, where, in one case, a husband was charged with the murder of his wife for providing her with the heroin that killed her.

What makes Smith's case different, according to Scott Lemieux, a lecturer in the department of political science at the University of Washington, is that Smith went forward to trial instead of pleading guilty.

"These really long sentences are used to put pressure on people to plead," he says. "The risk of going to trial is so extreme."

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Smith decided to take that risk, turning down a 25-year plea deal, and was found guilty by a jury. The other three surviving suspects have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Randall Houston, the district attorney who prosecuted Smith, says he felt the charges and the punishment were appropriate.

"If you're gonna bring a gun and commit a crime and somebody dies, there's consequences in Alabama – it's felony-murder," he says.

Houston points out that at his sentencing, Smith laughed and smiled. Holton, the defence lawyer, says that only shows how young Smith is.

Andre Washington, A'Donte's father, attended Smith's trial, but he didn't sit on the prosecution's side of the courtroom. Instead, he sat with Smith's mother.

"I went there to show him and his family some support. What the officers did – it was totally wrong," says Washington. "I don't feel [Smith] deserves that. No. Not at all."

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Dallas officer fired for killing innocent man in his own apartment

Image copyright Kaufman County Jail/ Botham Shem Jean/Facebook

A Dallas police officer who fatally shot a black man inside his own flat, saying she confused it for her own home, has been fired.

Amber Guyger "engaged in adverse conduct when she was arrested for manslaughter", police said in a press release on Monday.

Botham Shem Jean died on 6 September, after Ms Guyger entered his home in the building where they both lived.

Ms Guyger, 30, is currently out on bail, pending a criminal trial.

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Dallas Police Chief U Renee Hall terminated her employment during a hearing on Monday, police said, adding that she has the right to appeal.

She had been on administrative leave, as activists called for her immediate firing.

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— Dallas Police Dept (@DallasPD) September 24, 2018


End of Twitter post by @DallasPD

Court records show Ms Guyger had just finished a 15-hour shift when she parked in the wrong garage before making what was apparently a tragic error.

Ms Guyger entered the apartment after finding the door ajar, and saw Mr Jean, 26, in the darkness as a "large silhouette", according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

She said she gave verbal commands that he ignored, so she fired her weapon.

The arrest warrant affidavit, written by the Texas Rangers, differs slightly from the search warrant affidavit by Dallas police, local media report.

The search warrant statement says Mr Jean "confronted the officer at the door".

Neither document specifically states how close Ms Guyger was to Mr Jean when she shot him.

Police have been criticised for not immediately identifying the officer that killed Mr Jean, whom the mayor called a "model citizen".

After revealing that they had found marijuana at his home, a lawyer for his family accused the police force of trying to "smear" his reputation.

Mr Jean grew up on the Caribbean island of St Lucia and went on to work for the professional services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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Meghan and Harry go head-to-head in netball shootout

Image copyright Reuters/AFP
Image caption The Duke and Duchess of Sussex laughed their way through the netball shootout

Dancer Ginger Rogers famously did everything her partner Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

And the Duchess of Sussex seemed to have taken the example to heart when she took on her husband Prince Harry in a netball shootout.

Meghan arrived in towering stiletto heels for an awards ceremony at Loughborough University – but still got stuck into a sports masterclass.

The royal couple were snapped laughing their way through the on-court contest.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Duke and Duchess clearly enjoyed their sporting face-off
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Meghan's blue Oscar de la Renta top and Altuzarra trousers made for an unconventional netball ensemble, as did Harry's shirt and suit
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Prince Harry was also unusually dressed for the netball court

Meghan was joined by a roster of sports stars including tennis player Laura Robson, gymnastics coach Scott Hann, and England netballer Eboni Beckford-Chambers – an obvious advantage, you might think.

Not to be outdone, Harry's team got a boost from ex-US basketball star David Robinson, as well as marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, former England cricketer (and Strictly Come Dancing champion) Mark Ramprakash, and ex-England rugby player Ugo Monye.

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The Sussexes are clearly enjoying the masterclass with England netballer Eboni Beckford-Chambers!

— Omid Scobie (@scobie) September 24, 2018


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Harry and Meghan were at the university to present awards to graduates of Coach Core, an apprenticeship programme that trains unemployed young people to be sports coaches and mentors.

It was founded through the Royal Foundation following the 2012 London Olympics. The Foundation was set up as a vehicle for Prince William and Prince Harry's charitable work in 2009.

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The Coach Core programme is set to double its reach over the next three years, adding 10 new sites thanks to a £995,500 National Lottery grant.

Harry's team ultimately won the netball skill test – but if Meghan wants a rematch, she needn't look far for a willing teammate.

Her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, is never one to dodge a sporting challenge – no matter how unorthodox her attire.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Duchess of Cambridge is handy with a hockey stick – even in heels

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Brexit: Flights ‘at risk’ under no-deal, government warns

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A no-deal Brexit could cause disruption to air travel between the UK and European Union countries, the government warned on Monday.

This worst-case scenario is set out in the latest batch of documents outlining what what would happen to key industries if no agreement is reached.

Bus and coach services to EU countries could also be suspended in the event of no deal.

The government wants the EU and UK to accept each other's aviation standards.

However, the EU has not yet done so and will stop recognising UK safety standards if there is a hard Brexit.

"If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission," the government said.

Disruption 'not in EU's interests'

The UK "would envisage" allowing EU airlines to continue flying and "we would expect EU countries to reciprocate in turn", according to the document.

It added: "It would not be in the interest of any EU country or the UK to restrict the choice of destinations that could be served, though if such permissions are not granted, there could be disruption to some flights."

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The warning does not necessarily mean that flights would be grounded the day after Brexit.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The UK government says it is 'confident' that there will be no disruption to air travel after Brexit

According to Airlines UK, which represents 13 UK-registered carriers, the European Commission has said it would put in place a "bare bones" aviation agreement with the UK to keep planes flying and to cover safety issues.

Tim Alderslade, the trade body's chief executive, said airlines expected the EU and UK to reach a new agreement on aviation.

"Whilst we don't support a no-deal Brexit, we welcome that both the UK and the EU are proposing in this event a minimum agreement that would cover flight and safety requirements for the benefit of both passenger and cargo services," he said.

ADS Group, which represents the UK's aerospace, defence, security and space sectors, has called for Britain to remain a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

It said talks should be held between the Civil Aviation Authority and the EASA to address the complex issues involved and ensure flights are not disrupted.

Analysis: Chris Morris, BBC Reality Check correspondent

The no deal notices the government published this afternoon will make uncomfortable reading for many businesses and consumers, but also for the government.

In dry, technical language they make clear that many aspects of day-to-day life could be affected significantly if the UK leaves the EU with no deal at all, including air and coach travel (which could in theory come to a temporary halt) food labelling, driving in Europe for business or pleasure, and taking your pet across the Channel.

The government argues that these warnings represent contingency planning for a worst case scenario, but until they can guarantee that a deal will be done, preparations will have to be made.

And with time running out, people will have to start acting on some of the advice as soon as November. The prospect of a no deal Brexit is beginning to loom large.

Flights between the UK and 17 non-EU countries, such as the US, Canada, Switzerland and Iceland, operate due to the UK being an EU member.

The guidance states that "replacement arrangements will be in place before exit day".

The UK has already reached agreements with some of these countries and is "confident the remaining agreements will be agreed well in advance of the UK leaving the EU", the government said.

A separate government document warned that UK passengers may have to undergo extra security screening when changing flights in the EU after Brexit.

Neither passengers nor their luggage are usually rescanned when connecting at other EU airports after flying from the UK.

However, new advice states that could change if the EU failed to recognise the UK's aviation security standards after Brexit.

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Oil prices surge to near four-year high

Oil prices have jumped to the highest level for nearly four years after Saudi Arabia and Russia ruled out any immediate increase in production.

The decision on Sunday was effectively a rebuff to US President Donald Trump, who has called for immediate action to raise global supply.

Brent crude rose more than 3% to more than $81 a barrel on Monday, its highest level since November 2014.

Saudi Arabia dominates the OPEC group of oil-producing nations and Russia is its biggest oil-producer ally outside the group.

They have reportedly been discussing raising output by half a million barrels a day to counter falling supply from Iran.

But a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC energy ministers in Algiers ended without any formal recommendation for a supply boost.

Mr Trump said last week that OPEC "must get prices down".

Experts estimate that once US sanctions on Iran are fully implemented from November it could result in the loss of as many as two million barrels a day from global supply.

Commodity traders Trafigura and Mercuria said they expected Brent crude to climb above $90 by Christmas and to pass $100 early in 2019.

BNP Paribas oil strategist Harry Tchilinguirian told Reuters Global Oil Forum: "It is now increasingly evident, that in the face of producers reluctant to raise output, the market will be confronted with supply gaps in the next three to six months that it will need to resolve through higher oil prices."

Higher prices tend to mean higher petrol costs.

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However the AA has said other factors, including the strengthening pound over recent weeks, means that wholesale prices have fallen, and that this should help keep the lid on costs.

Meanwhile, higher oil prices tend to benefit UK-listed companies such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell, which employ thousands of people in the North Sea and whose shares are staples in many UK pension funds.

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Trump news: US Deputy Attorney Rosenstein heads to White House ‘to resign’ amid Russia row

US Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election, is on his way to the White House amid reports he will resign in anticipation of being fired by President Donald Trump.

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