Manslaughter

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The unjustifiable, inexcusable, and intentional killing of a human being without deliberation, premeditation, and malice. The unlawful killing of a human being without any deliberation, which may be involuntary, in the commission of a lawful act without due caution and circumspection.

Manslaughter is a distinct crime and is not considered a lesser degree of murder. The essential distinction between the two offenses is that malice aforethought must be present for murder, whereas it must be absent for manslaughter. Manslaughter is not as serious a crime as murder.

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On the other hand, it is not a justifiable or excusable killing for which little or no punishment is imposed.

At COMMON LAW, as well as under current statutes, the offense can be either voluntary or INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER. The main difference between the two is that voluntary manslaughter requires an intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm while involuntary manslaughter does not. Premeditation or deliberation, however, are elements of murder and not of manslaughter. Some states have abandoned the use of adjectives to describe different forms of the offense and, instead, simply divide the offense into varying degrees.

Voluntary Manslaughter

In most jurisdictions, voluntary manslaughter consists of an intentional killing that is accompanied by additional circumstances that mitigate, but do not excuse, the killing. The most common type of voluntary manslaughter occurs when a defendant is provoked to commit the HOMICIDE. It is sometimes described as a heat of passion killing. In most cases, the provocation must induce rage or anger in the defendant, although some cases have held that fright, terror, or desperation will suffice.

If adequate provocation is established, a murder charge may be reduced to manslaughter. Generally there are four conditions that must be fulfilled to warrant the reduction: (1) the provocation must cause rage or fear in a reasonable person; (2) the defendant must have actually been provoked; (3) there should not be a time period between the provocation and the killing within which a reasonable person would cool off; and (4) the defendant should not have cooled off during that period.

Provocation is justifiable if a reasonable person under similar circumstances would be induced to act in the same manner as the defendant. It must be found that the degree of provocation was such that a reasonable person would lose self-control. In actual practice, there is no precise formula for determining reasonableness. It is a matter that is determined by the trier of fact, either the jury or the judge in a nonjury trial, after a full consideration of the evidence.

Certain forms of provocation that frequently arise have traditionally been considered reasonable or unreasonable...

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