In Michigan, felony murder is listed as a subsection in the state’s first degree murder statute (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.316).

In Michigan, prosecutors can charge and convict any person of first degree murder without having to prove that they intended to cause another person’s death, but since 1980, do have to prove that a person exhibited at least “malice.” People v Aaron, 409 Mich 672 (1980). “Malice" is defined in part as the “intent to kill,” but can also be proven by less–i.e. that the person exhibited the “intent . . . to inflict great bodily harm or with a wanton and willful disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of the defendant’s behavior is to cause death or great bodily harm.” People v. Reichard, 505 Mich. 81 (2020). As the Sentencing Project notes, however, despite the “malice” requirement, “the number of Michiganders imprisoned for felony murder is comparable to that of Pennsylvania, where no such requirement exists.”

As of 2020, in Michigan, people charged with felony murder can present evidence to the jury that they were acting under duress–i.e. under present, imminent, or impending threats “sufficient to create in the mind of a reasonable person the fear of death or serious bodily harm” and that the person “committed the act to avoid the threatened harm.” A conviction for felony murder carries a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Analysis: Race

Race and Conviction Rate

In Michigan, you are 15.903 times more likely to be incarcerated for felony murder if you are Black than if you are white.

Black 15.903x

Disproportionate Representation

While Black individuals account for only 14% of Michigan’s population


they make up 49% of all incarcerated people


and 71% of those incarcerated for felony murder.


In terms of gender, women make up 5.11% of felony murder convictions

In Wayne, Genesee, and Washtenaw counties, the overwhelming majority of those convicted of felony murder are Black.

  • 90%

    of those convicted of felony murder are Black in Wayne County, which includes the city of Detroit.

  • 77%

    of those convicted of felony murder are Black in Genesee County

  • 87%

    of those convicted of felony murder are Black in Washtenaw County

Analysis: Harsh Sentences

In total, there are at least 1,095 persons incarcerated for felony murder
in Michigan (comprising 8.68% of all murder convictions). Of these individuals, 1,004 are sentenced to life in prison.

The remaining 88 persons are sentenced to a cumulative

5,824 years in prison

For those not serving life sentences, the median number of years in prison they were sentenced to is 60 years.

Analysis: Impact on Youth

Young people in Michigan are disproportionately impacted by felony murder.

  • 29

    Median age at offense for all crimes

  • 23

    Median age at offense for felony murder

  • 113

    Persons incarcerated for felony murder in Michigan that were younger than 18 at time of their offense.

    Of these young persons, 73.28% of them are Black.

Data Request Process

Data Request Process Grade 1.8 / 5 (D)
Factors Supporting Grade
Request Responsiveness
Financial Accessibility
No Residency Required
Appeal Responsiveness

*These factors track the process--i.e. the effort and obstacles--for obtaining data from individual states under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and appeals process. These factors do not measure the quality of the data; only the process of attempting to obtain the data.

How We Collected Our Data

We created our dataset by examining Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) data for people whose charge was listed as “Homicide - Felony Murder” or “Homicide - Felony Murder - Conspiracy.” We obtained this data by scraping Michigan’s Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS), the state’s online criminal background search portal. This analysis encompasses those convicted of felony murder as of March 2023.

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Learn more about how you can contribute to transparency when it comes to felony murder.

This analysis encompasses those convicted of felony murder as of March 2023.