In adopting the "extreme mental or emotional disturbance" concept, Model Penal Code § 210.3 intends to define the provocation element of manslaughter in broader terms than has previously been done. The Hawaii legislature also intended the same result when it adopted the language of the Model Penal Code in Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-702(2) (1976).
Defendant was convicted of murder for killing his mother-in-law. On appeal, the court reversed, finding that the trial court erred in refusing to give his requested instruction on manslaughter because there was sufficient evidence that he was acting under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance for which there was a reasonable explanation. The court concluded that evidence that defendant suffered from a paranoid personality disorder, causing him to have irrational jealousy and unwarranted suspicions about his wife's faithfulness, was sufficient to warrant the instruction and to leave the jury to weigh that evidence, no matter how weak, inconclusive, or unsatisfactory, in deciding whether to convict him of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Can the jury mitigate a charge of murder to manslaughter due to the extreme emotional or mental disturbance of the criminal defendant?
Reviewing the evidence within the context of the meaning of HRS § 707-702(2), the court concluded that it was sufficient to require the trial court to give Defendant's requested instruction on manslaughter. There was evidence, "no matter how weak, inconclusive or unsatisfactory," that Defendant killed his mother-in-law while under the influence of "extreme emotional disturbance." Whether a jury will agree that there was such a disturbance or that the explanation for it was reasonable the court cannot say. However, Defendant was entitled to have the jury make that decision using the objective/subjective test. The fact that the other witnesses contradicted his testimony concerning an attack by the victim, and that his testimony that he was only trying to scare her does not comport with the manslaughter defense, does not detract from Defendant's right to the instruction based on the above evidence. Defendant was entitled to an instruction on every theory of defense shown by the evidence. It was the jury's province to determine the weight and credibility of that evidence.