Mississippi is one of only five states that codify felony murder in three separate statutes: first degree murder (Miss. Code. Ann. § 97-3-19), capital murder (Miss. Code Ann Section 97-3-19), and felony manslaughter (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-27). Different degrees of felony murder depend on the seriousness of the underlying felony.

Prosecutors can charge and convict any person of murder or manslaughter without having to prove that they intended to cause another person’s death. Prosecutors must only prove that a person or an accomplice committed another specified felony and that a death occurred. There is no possibility in Mississippi for a person charged with felony murder to raise an affirmative defense–i.e. that he or she acted under duress, that they weren’t armed and had no reason to believe another participant was armed or intended to engage in conduct likely to result in death.

A conviction for felony murder in Mississippi is eligible for the death penalty (capital murder), a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (first degree murder), and a minimum of 1-20 years imprisonment for felony manslaughter.

Analysis: Race

Race and Conviction Rate

In Mississippi, you are 6.6543 times more likely to be incarcerated for felony murder if you are Black than if you are white.

Black 6.6543x

Disproportionate Representation

While Black individuals account for only 37% of Mississippi's population


they make up 60% of all incarcerated people


and 80% of those incarcerated for felony murder.


In terms of gender, women make up 7.29% of felony murder convictions.

In Bolivar and Washington counties, the overwhelming majority of those convicted of felony murder are Black.

  • 89%

    of those convicted of felony murder are Black in Bolivar County.

  • 96%

    of those convicted of felony murder are Black in Washington County.

Analysis: Harsh Sentences

In total, we were able to identify 96 persons incarcerated for felony murder in Mississippi (comprising 4.38% of all murder convictions). Of these individuals, 27 are sentenced to life in prison.

The remaining 69 persons are sentenced to a cumulative

2,045 years in prison

Analysis: Youthful Impact

Young people in Mississippi are disproportionately impacted by felony murder.

  • 29

    Median age at offense for all crimes

  • 27

    Median age at offense for felony murder

  • 6

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

    *Of these young persons, 74.34% of them are Black.

Data Request Process

Data Request Process Grade 3.2 / 5 (C)
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 Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) and data from the Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC). The MDOC data were obtained through a public records request under Mississippi’s public records statutes, § 25-61-1. The MEC data were obtained through a public records request submitted to MEC by Elene Debre. The data from the courts covers all those charged with felony murder between 2010 and 2022. However, only 47 of Mississippi’s 82 circuit courts used the electronic records system during this time period, and so this analysis is missing records from the remaining 35 jurisdictions. Felony murder was identified in the MEC data by all those whose top conviction charge was listed as “Crimes Against Person: Capital Murder; With or without design in commission or attempt of certain felonies,” or “Crimes Against Person: Second-Degree Murder; Without premeditated design, eminently dangerous, evincing depraved heart.” These individuals were then matched to their corresponding records in the MDOC data.

Of the 121 persons sentenced to felony murder in the court data, 96 had corresponding records in the correctional system. The remaining 25 persons did not have a murder charge that we could identify as felony murder or were not in the MDOC dataset at all. This could mean their felony murder conviction was overturned or they are housed at a facility outside of Mississippi.

This analysis encompasses those convicted of felony murder between 2010-2020 in 47 of Mississippi’s 82 circuit court systems. As of September 1, 2023, the following circuit court systems use MEC: Acorn, Itawamba, Lee, Monroe, Prentiss, Pontotoc, Tishomingo, Hancock, Harrison, Stone, Calhoun, Union, Washington, Attala, Carroll, Choctaw, Grenada, Montgomery, Webster, Winston, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren, Clarke, Lauderdale, Bolivar, Coahoma, Forrest, Perry, Jasper, Simpson, Lincoln, Pike, Walthall, Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion, Pearl River, Clay, Tallahatchie, Tate, Yalobusha, Humphreys, Claiborne, Copia, Jefferson, and Desoto counties.

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This analysis encompasses those convicted of felony murder between 2010-2020 in 47 of Mississippi’s 82 circuit court systems.