No matter how strong a defendant's passionate resentment is, it does not suffice to reduce the grade of the crime from murder to voluntary manslaughter, unless that passion is due to a provocation such as the law deemed reasonable and adequate; that is, a provocation of such a character as would, in the mind of an average reasonable man, stir resentment likely to cause violence, obscuring the reason, and leading to action from passion rather than judgment.
The victim, who was a coworker of defendant, had called defendant profane names on several occasions despite defendant's request that the victim stop. Defendant struck the victim on the head with a metal bar and killed him after the victim had insulted defendant again. Defendant was indicted for murder in the first degree, and the trial court entered a jury verdict that found defendant guilty of murder in the second degree and denied his motion for a new trial. On appeal, the court affirmed defendant's conviction.
Was the provocation by the victim adequate or reasonable justify a reduction of the crime from murder to voluntary manslaughter?
The court held that although the evidence was sufficient to show that defendant killed the victim under the impulse of sudden heat of passion, it did not suffice to reduce the crime from murder to voluntary manslaughter. The court held that although the victim was sensitive to the use of profane language and insults, the provocation was not reasonable because language and insults were not sufficient justification for taking a life. The court also concluded that the jury was properly instructed and it was the jury's province to find that the victim's words, coupled with an alleged assault, did not amount to sufficient provocation for the homicide.