D and his wife met while in the army. They knew each other for 3 months and got married. They had been married for 2 months when the wife decided she wanted a divorce.
On that night, D overheard his wife on the phone asking for a discharge from the army due to her husband not loving her anymore. D questioned her and then stormed off to the bedroom.
The wife stepped on D's back and pulled his hair and began telling him how much she hated him. She told him that she wanted a divorce and that he had filed charges against him for abuse (not true).
D asked if all of this was true, wife said yes. D went and got a knife from the kitchen and returned to the bedroom.
Wife continued berating him and asked what he was going to do about it. D stabbed her 19 times, killing her.
Trial court found D guilty of second degree murder.
MD COA affirmed, D guilty of second degree murder.
Are words alone adequate provocation to mitigate murder to manslaughter?
Words alone are not adequate provocation to mitigate murder to manslaughter.
The difference between murder and manslaughter is the presence or absence of malice. Voluntary manslaughter is an intentional homicide done in a sudden heat of passion, caused by adequate provocation before there has been a reasonable opportunity for the passion to cool.
Provocations/reasons for mitigation from murder to manslaughter include…
Discovering one's spouse in the act of sexual intercourse with another.
Assault and battery.
Injury to one of the D's relative or to a third party.
These provocations create passion in the D and are not considered the product of free will.
The "Rule of Provocation" is a template used to see if murder should be mitigated to manslaughter.
There must have been adequate provocation.
The killing must have been in the heat of passion.
It must have been a sudden heat of passion. The killing must have followed the provocation before there had been a reasonable opportunity for the passion to cool.
There must have been a causal connection between the provocation, the passion, and the fatal act.
For provocation to be adequate, it must be calculated to inflame the passion of a reasonable man and tend to cause him to act for the moment from passion rather than reason.
Words can constitute adequate provocation if they are accompanied by conduct indicating a present intention and ability to cause the D bodily harm.