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For a defendant to be entitled to a charge on extreme emotional disturbance, sufficient evidence must be presented for the jury to find by a preponderance of the evidence that the elements of the affirmative defense are satisfied. The defense requires proof of both a subjective element (that defendant did in fact act under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance) and an objective element (that there was reasonable explanation or excuse for the emotional disturbance). The determination whether there was reasonable excuse or explanation for the disturbance must be made by viewing the subjective, internal situation in which the defendant found himself and the external circumstances as he perceived them at the time, however inaccurate that perception may have been, and assessing from that standpoint whether the explanation or excuse for his emotional disturbance was reasonable. Psychiatric evidence is not necessary to establish the defense.
At Willis Moye’s murder trial, the People introduced evidence that the victim, Gloria Blocken, had died in the early morning of November 21, 1979 as a result of decapitation and evisceration. One month later, Detective Martin Mak interviewed Moye, who admitted that he had killed Blocken. According to Mak's testimony at trial, defendant said that he thought he was a homosexual because he had difficulty having sexual relations with women, and his friend advised him "that if anybody can get you an erection, it would be Gloria Blocken." Moye and his friend went to Blocken's apartment but left after a time, and Moye later returned there alone and attempted to have sexual intercourse with her. When he was unable to do so, she began laughing at him. Although he asked her to stop, she refused. He then slashed her across the chest with his knife. "She fell, and * * * [defendant] said he went over and cut her head off. He said: I just went crazy and cut her head off. And then he said: I kept slashing and slashing and slashing." After Detective Mak placed him under arrest, defendant said, "I need help. I would like to have some help." After both sides rested, Moye asked the court to charge extreme emotional disturbance (Penal Law § 125.25  [a]) and intoxication (Penal Law § 15.25), but both requests were rejected on the ground that the evidence introduced was insufficient to justify submission of those issues to the jury. The Appellate Division affirmed Moye’s conviction of second degree murder.
Was there sufficient evidence to warrant submission of the defense of extreme emotional disturbance to the jury for its determination?
The court held that Moye’s savage acts of mutilating and decapitating his victim, coupled with his statements to the police, was evidence of a loss of self-control associated with the defense of extreme emotional disturbance. The court held, therefore, that in these circumstances, Moye’s request for the charge of extreme emotional disturbance should have been granted so that the jury might weigh the evidence presented as to both the subjective and objective elements of the defense.