Law School Case Brief
State v. Rowe - 210 Neb. 419, 315 N.W.2d 250 (1982)
Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-305 (Reissue 1979) provides in part that a person commits manslaughter if he kills another without malice, either upon a sudden quarrel, or causes the death of another unintentionally while in the commission of an unlawful act.
The defendant, Paul J. Rowe, resided in a farm residence with his wife, Layne Rowe, near Alvo, Nebraska. On the morning of May 1, 1980, passers-by noticed smoke coming from the Rowe residence and noted the house was burning. After the fire had been extinguished, the body of deceased Layne Rowe, with body mutilations and skull fractures, was discovered. Defendant, through counsel and in open court, judicially admitted that he made the cuts upon his wife’s body; however, he asserted that he did it when he was in the psychotic state. At the close of all the evidence, Defendant moved the court to not submit to the jury the charge of murder in the first degree. The court charged the jury on the elements of murder in the second degree and denied the defense request that the instructions include submission of the crime of manslaughter. The jury returned a verdict against defendant. Defendant appealed.
Was there evidence that would permit the jury to find defendant guilty of a killing without malice, either upon a sudden quarrel or unintentionally while in the commission of an unlawful act?
The Court ruled that there was circumstantial evidence from which the jury could have concluded that the murder was a consequence of a sudden quarrel. Therefore, the trial court erred in not submitting to the jury the lesser-included offense of manslaughter with the charge of murder in the second degree. Hence, the Court reversed defendant’s conviction on the murder charge.
Access the full text case
Not a Lexis+ subscriber? Try it out for free.
Be Sure You're Prepared for Class