In order to determine whether murder should be mitigated to manslaughter a court looks to the circumstances surrounding the homicide and tries to discover if it is provoked by the victim. The court looked to the Rule of Provocation: 1. There must be adequate provocation; 2. The killing must be in the heat of passion; 3. It must be a sudden heat of passion; the killing must follow the provocation before there is a reasonable opportunity for the passion to cool; and 4. There must be a causal connection between the provocation, the passion, and the fatal act.
Petitioner stabbed his wife 19 times after a verbal argument ensued and petitioner was infuriated by wife's taunting words. The trial judge decided that although the wife's provocation was needless, it was not adequate to mitigate second degree murder to voluntary manslaughter and, on review, the court agreed. The court found that the The judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Was the provocation by the victim sufficient to mitigate the murder charge against petitioner to voluntary manslaughter?
Provocation, no matter how insulting, was certainly not enough to justify a reasonable man stabbing his provoker 19 times. The court acknowledged that defendant had mental problems, but reiterated that the standard was one of reasonableness and should not focus on the peculiar frailties of defendant. Asserting that domestic arguments easily escalate into furious fights, the court held that there was no reason to favor those who found the murder of an offending spouse to be the easiest way to end a dispute. Other jurisdictions overwhelmingly agree with our cases and hold that words alone are not adequate provocation.