The general rule in Illinois is that the only categories of provocation which are considered sufficiently serious to reduce the crime of murder to voluntary manslaughter are substantial physical injury or assault, mutual quarrel or combat, illegal arrest, and adultery with the offender's spouse. Mere words, however aggravated, abusive, opprobrious, or indecent, are not sufficient provocation. Moreover, adultery by a spouse has generally been limited to those instances where the parties were discovered in the act of adultery or immediately before or after its commission. An apparent exception to these general rules, based on verbal revelations of infidelity and other conduct, has been recognized in two Illinois cases in which convictions for voluntary manslaughter were affirmed.
Defendant killed his wife in the course of a contentious evening after she told him of an affair, spurned his attempts to reconcile, and goaded him by saying, "I know you want to kill me. Pull that knife and make it easy for me." The trial court refused to submit an instruction to the jury defining the offense of manslaughter based on provocation and later convicted defendant of murdering his wife in violation of Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 38, para. 9 -- 1 (1985). Defendant appealed. The appellate court reversed and remanded the judgment.
Did the trial court err in refusing to instruct the jury on the offense of voluntary manslaughter based on provocation?
The trial court erred in refusing the voluntary manslaughter instruction. The present case fell within the exception recognized in decisional law for verbal revelations of adultery and other conduct. The wife's conduct was the type of provocation which Illinois law recognized as sufficiently serious, if believed by the jury, to reduce the crime of murder to voluntary manslaughter. The evidence was sufficient to warrant the giving of the instruction.