Criminal Defense Lawyers Reducing Murder To Manslaughter

Criminal Defense Lawyers Reducing Murder To Manslaughter



Reducing murder to​ manslaughter is​ a​ task that presents itself in​ many murder cases. Depending on​ your state or​ jurisdiction you may be able to​ reduce murder to​ manslaughter by eliminating the​ element of​ “malice.” Classically,​ this is​ where the​ defendant acts by being provoked into a​ sudden quarrel or​ into a​ state of​ mind known as​ the​ “heat of​ passion.” the​ mental state of​ “heat of​ passion” is​ not just one emotion. it​ can be anger,​ jealously,​ or​ any other agitated state of​ mind in​ the​ normal range of​ human behavior.

If a​ person is​ intentionally killed but the​ defendant was provoked or​ was in​ the​ heat of​ passion due to​ some provocative circumstance of​ the​ alleged victim,​ the​ killing is​ said to​ be mitigated to​ voluntary manslaughter. the​ defendant cannot just set up his or​ her own standard of​ conduct. the​ situation causing the​ heat of​ passion must be such that a​ reasonable person under the​ circumstances would have been provoked to​ act out of​ passion rather than logic. the​ classic example given in​ law schools is​ where a​ person comes home unexpectedly and finds their spouse in​ bed with another person. This is​ the​ type of​ act that could cause any reasonable person to​ act out of​ passion and emotion rather than logic.

Usually these cases happen in​ times of​ great stress and emotion and a​ psychologist or​ psychiatrist should be employed to​ see if​ any factors of​ the​ mental state of​ the​ defendant or​ victim can be used to​ reduce the​ offense to​ manslaughter. How mental state factors can be used depend upon the​ laws of​ the​ jurisdiction in​ which the​ case is​ being tried.

If it​ can be shown that the​ killing was unintentional,​ but reckless,​ in​ some states the​ case can be reduced to​ involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter carries a​ significantly lower penalty than voluntary manslaughter. Sometimes what looks like a​ murder,​ an​ intentional killing,​ is​ really an​ accident under extremely stressful circumstances. Note that in​ some states an​ unintentional killing,​ if​ extreme enough,​ can be murder. Generally that type of​ act must be more than recklessness. Typically,​ to​ make an​ unintentional act murder there must exist a​ callous disregard for human life. in​ some states those types of​ acts are called “depraved heart murders.”

As an​ example,​ a​ female was charged with murder when she stabbed her husband in​ the​ chest with a​ steak knife. They were in​ the​ kitchen making dinner and got into an​ argument. Because the​ knife hit a​ major artery near the​ heart,​ he died within minutes. the​ defendant told two different stories about what happened. She said it​ was an​ accident and she didn’t mean to​ kill him. She was prosecuted for murder and taken to​ trial.

The defense noticed that the​ location and angle of​ the​ wound seemed odd for an​ intentional stabbing. the​ blade went in​ at​ an​ angle rather than vertical. This didn’t seem consistent with how a​ person intentionally stabbing another would have stabbed. Also,​ the​ blade went right between the​ ribs in​ a​ soft area of​ cartilage. it​ seemed unlikely that a​ non professional could have known this vulnerability and hit it​ so precisely.

The defense retained a​ well-known pathologist who totally agreed and testified that all of​ the​ circumstances were consistent with an​ accident and inconsistent with patterns of​ known stabbings. a​ psychiatrist also testified to​ the​ woman’s exaggerated startle response because of​ beatings from a​ prior relationship. the​ defense theory was that she accidentally stabbed her boyfriend when he quickly advanced towards her in​ the​ argument. She over-reacted and,​ without consciously knowing it,​ thrust her knife hand forward. the​ knife went through the​ butter-soft cartilage and pierced the​ artery. the​ jury found her not guilty of​ murder and found her guilty of​ involuntary manslaughter. Had she not been under the​ influence of​ drugs,​ the​ jury might have found the​ act to​ be a​ pure accident and totally excused her.

To show that a​ killing is​ either voluntary manslaughter or​ involuntary manslaughter,​ a​ thorough investigation,​ analysis,​ and reconstruction is​ mandated. Even if​ the​ act was not the​ type that would justify reducing a​ murder to​ manslaughter,​ the​ fact that the​ defendant was in​ the​ heat of​ passion could eliminate premeditation and deliberation and reduce the​ degree of​ the​ murder.




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