The provocation necessary to mitigate a homicide from murder to manslaughter is that which causes the defendant to act out of passion rather than reason. The defendant's emotions must be so intense that they distort the defendant's practical reasoning. In addition, the provocation must be adequate, namely, that which would cause the reasonable person to lose control.
Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder and possessing a firearm at the time of commission or attempted commission of a felony. The lower appellate court reversed because the trial court denied defendant's request for a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter. The state appealed, asserting that there was insufficient evidence of provocation to support the instruction. The court reversed the lower appellate court's order, ruling that the trial court correctly refused the instruction.
Was there sufficient evidence of provocation that could overcome reason, requiring a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter?
None of the three prongs necessary for a finding of voluntary manslaughter was present. There was no evidence that defendant was in a highly inflamed state of mind because he testified that at the time that he went into the house to retrieve a gun, he was not angry. Thus, his ability to reason was not blurred by passion. The court found that defendant's emotional state did not reach such a level that he was unable to act deliberately. The evidence depicted a verbal fracas between six young men with no punches thrown. Accordingly, there was insufficient evidence to establish an adequate provocation for voluntary manslaughter.