OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A teen is now accused in the murder of 15-year-old Stavian Rodriguez, even though he didn’t pull the trigger.
Rodriguez was killed by officers following an alleged armed robbery, but because authorities said Wyatt Cheatham was a party to a crime that resulted in his death, Cheatham is charged with felony murder.
Authorities are still investigating whether the officers who killed Rodriguez should be charged with wrongful death.
Regardless of those findings, 17-year-old Cheatham is charged and could be convicted.
“The felony murder rule is the theory that if you engage in behavior that is so inherently dangerous that a reasonable person could foresee a death occurring, that all participants in the crime be held responsible,” said trial attorney Jacqui Ford.
According to the affidavit, Rodriguez and Cheatham held up the convenience store together and got away with cash and cigarettes.
Authorities allege that because they were both involved in the crime, the survivor, Cheatham, should be held accountable.
“It’s a shame that this 17-year-old is going to be held to a level of accountability that is greater than the professionals who are trained and charged and tasked with keeping us safe in our community,” said Ford.
Ford argued the law is deeply flawed, unreasonable and needs to be changed by legislators.
She said that the felony murder law is meant to curtail massive group criminal activity, holding accountable those that support major crime rings.
“The felony murder law was not contemplated to charge Wyatt Cheatham for the actions of Stavian Rodriguez, and the Oklahoma City Police Department,” Ford said. “That wasn’t the purpose, it’s just the flaw in the application.”
As it applies to Cheatham, Ford contends prosecutors will have a tough time proving their case.
She pointed out that according to the affidavit, a couple minutes after the two left the store together, “Stavian returns and enters the store” and does so alone, after which he was killed. Cheatham admitted to officers that the two planned to rob the convenience store, but went on to say that after they left, Stavian told him “he was going back because he had dropped something” when he allegedly went in to hold up the clerk for more money.
“If the robbery is complete when Mr. Rodriguez goes back into the store, then the conspirator liability that they are putting on Mr. Cheatham should be terminated when the robbery is over,” Ford said. “The question then becomes, ‘How long is the conspiracy going to last?’”
Because the case is still pending, District Attorney David Prater’s office did not comment.