Law School Case Brief
State v. Guebara - 236 Kan. 791, 696 P.2d 381 (1985)
In order to reduce a homicide from murder to voluntary manslaughter, there must be provocation, and such provocation must be recognized by the law as adequate. A provocation is adequate if it is calculated to deprive a reasonable man of self-control and to cause him to act out of passion rather than reason. In order for a defendant to be entitled to a reduced charge because he acted in the heat of passion, his emotional state of mind must exist at the time of the act and it must have arisen from circumstances constituting sufficient provocation. The test of the sufficiency of the provocation is objective, not subjective. The provocation, whether it be sudden quarrel or some other form of provocation, must be sufficient to cause an ordinary man to lose control of his actions and his reason. In applying the objective standard for measuring the sufficiency of the provocation, the standard precludes consideration of the innate peculiarities of the individual defendant. The fact that his intelligence is not high and his passion is easily aroused will not be considered in this connection.
Paul Guebara shot and killed his wife, Genny Guebara, after she had filed for a divorce. Guebara admitted the homicide in his testimony at the trial. His counsel requested the trial court to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter as defined by K.S.A. 21-3403. The trial court instructed the jury on murder in the first and second degree but refused to give the requested instruction on voluntary manslaughter. In making its ruling, the trial court reasoned that two elements must exist to prove voluntary manslaughter: First, there must be evidence of an emotional state constituting heat of passion and, second, there must be a sufficient provocation. The trial court concluded that the refusal of a person to dismiss misdemeanor criminal charges arising from a domestic squabble was not a sufficient legal provocation to kill. The case was submitted to the jury and defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree. The only issue raised on the appeal is that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter.
Did the trial court err by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter?
The court affirmed defendant's conviction for murder in the first degree because the evidence was not sufficient to require an instruction on voluntary manslaughter as a lesser-included offense of the charge of murder. The court noted that it had to apply an objective standard for measuring the sufficiency of the provocation. In doing so, it could not consider the innate peculiarities of the individual defendant. Therefore, the court concluded that the trial court did not err when it refused to instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter.
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