Definition

An intentional killing that is mitigated by adequate provocation or other circumstances that negate malice aforethought.  Voluntary manslaughter is commonly referred to as “heat of passion killing.”

What constitutes “adequate provocation”?

The standard for “adequate provocation” is an objective standard and requires a showing of facts under which a reasonable person would lose self control.  Also, there must be a causal connection between the provocation and the killing.  Finally, the time lapse between the act of provocation and the killing must not be long enough that a reasonable person would have cooled off.

Examples of cases where courts found evidence of adequate provocation:

Examples of cases where courts found provocation inadequate as a matter of law:

Reference Desk:

Califonria Criminal Jury Instruction No. 570. Voluntary Manslaughter: Heat of Passion – Lesser Included Offense

A killing that would otherwise be murder is reduced to voluntary manslaughter if the defendant killed someone because of a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.

The defendant killed someone because of a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion if:

1. The defendant was provoked;

2. As a result of the provocation, the defendant acted rashly and under the influence of intense emotion that obscured (his/her) reasoning or judgment;

AND

3. The provocation would have caused a person of average disposition to act rashly and without due deliberation, that is, from passion rather than from judgment.

Heat of passion does not require anger, rage, or any specific emotion. It can be any violent or intense emotion that causes a person to act without due deliberation and reflection.

In order for heat of passion to reduce a murder to voluntary manslaughter, the defendant must have acted under the direct and immediate influence of provocation as I have defined it. While no specific type of provocation is required, slight or remote provocation is not sufficient. Sufficient provocation may occur over a short or long period of time.

It is not enough that the defendant simply was provoked. The defendant is not allowed to set up (his/her) own standard of conduct. You must decide whether the defendant was provoked and whether the provocation was sufficient. In deciding whether the provocation was sufficient, consider whether a person of average disposition would have been provoked and how such a person would react in the same situation knowing the same facts.

[If enough time passed between the provocation and the killing for a person of average disposition to “cool off” and regain his or her clear reasoning and judgment, then the killing is not reduced to voluntary manslaughter on this basis.]

The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not kill as the result of a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of murder.

California Crimional Jury Instruction No. 571. Voluntary Manslaughter: Imperfect Self-Defense – Lesser Included Offense

A killing that would otherwise be murder is reduced to voluntary manslaughter if the defendant killed a person because (he/she) acted in (imperfect self-defense/ [or] imperfect defense of another).

If you conclude the defendant acted in complete (self-defense/ [or] defense of another), (his/her) action was lawful and you must find (him/her) not guilty of any crime. The difference between complete (self-defense/ [or] defense of another) and (imperfect self-defense/ [or] imperfect defense of another) depends on whether the defendant’s belief in the need to use deadly force was reasonable.

The defendant acted in (imperfect self-defense/ [or] imperfect defense of another) if:

1. The defendant actually believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/ <insert name of third party>) was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury;

AND

2. The defendant actually believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against the danger;

BUT

3. At least one of those beliefs was unreasonable.

Belief in future harm is not sufficient, no matter how great or how likely the harm is believed to be.

In evaluating the defendant’s beliefs, consider all the circumstances as they were known and appeared to the defendant.

[If you find that <insert name of decedent/victim> threatened or harmed the defendant [or others] in the past, you may consider that information in evaluating the defendant’s beliefs.]

[If you find that the defendant knew that <insert name of decedent/victim> had threatened or harmed others in the past, you may consider that information in evaluating the defendant’s beliefs.]

[If you find that the defendant received a threat from someone else that (he/she) reasonably associated with <insert name of decedent/victim>, you may consider that threat in evaluating the defendant’s beliefs.]

[Great bodily injury means significant or substantial physical injury. It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.]

The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not acting in (imperfect self-defense/ [or] imperfect defense of another). If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of murder.

California Criminal Jury Instruction No. 572. Voluntary Manslaughter: Murder Not Charged

The defendant is charged [in Count ______] with voluntary manslaughter.

To prove that the defendant is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, the People must prove that:

1. The defendant committed an act that caused the death of another person;

[AND]

2. When the defendant acted, (he/she) unlawfully intended to kill someone(;/.)

<Give element 3 when instructing on self-defense or defense of another>

[AND

3. (he/she) killed without lawful excuse or justification.]

Or the People must prove that:

1. The defendant intentionally committed an act that caused the death of another person;

2. The natural consequences of the act were dangerous to human life;

3. At the time (he/she) acted, (he/she) knew the act was dangerous to human life;

[AND]

4. (he/she) deliberately acted with conscious disregard for human life(;/.)

<Give element 5 when instructing on self-defense or defense of another>

[AND

5. (he/she) killed without lawful excuse or justification.]

[An act causes death if the death is the direct, natural, and probable consequence of the act and the death would not have happened without the act. A natural and probable consequence is one that a reasonable person would know is likely to happen if nothing unusual intervenes. In deciding whether a consequence is natural and probable, consider all of the circumstances established by the evidence.]

[There may be more than one cause of death. An act causes death only if it is a substantial factor in causing the death. A substantial factor is more than a trivial or remote factor. However, it does not need to be the only factor that causes the death.]

 

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