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If a defendant inflicts a wound in a sudden transport of passion, excited by what the deceased has said and by the preceding events which, for the time, disturbed her reasoning faculties and deprived her of the capacity to reflect, or while under the influence of some sudden and uncontrollable emotion excited by the final culmination of her misfortunes, the act does not constitute murder in the first degree. Deliberation and premeditation imply the capacity at the time to think and reflect, sufficient volition to make a choice, and by the use of these powers, to refrain from doing a wrongful act.
A doctor failed to return to treat defendant's son as promised, so defendant attacked and killed the doctor, blaming him for the death of defendant's son. A jury convicted defendant of murder in the first degree. Defendant challenged his conviction.
Under the circumstances, could the defendant be held guilty of first-degree murder?
On appeal, the court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial holding that there was insufficient evidence to support a first-degree murder conviction. The court further held that there was no clear showing that defendant had premeditated and intended the doctor's murder, but there was sufficient evidence to establish that defendant had acted in a fit of rage when he attacked and killed the doctor. The court also held that a reversal was required because of the state's use of the testimony of the doctor's widow in order to ignite passion and prejudice in the jury. Finally, the court held that the jury, in determining defendant's state of mind during the killing, had been required to evaluate defendant's subjective belief as to the doctor's culpability in the child's death and not whether such belief was mistaken.