CaseCast™ – "What you need to know"
Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Steven S. Girouard, killed his wife, Joyce M. Girouard, after she repeatedly verbally abused him.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Words alone-that is, unaccompanied by conduct indicating a present intention and ability to cause bodily harm-cannot constitute adequate provocation to reduce murder to manslaughter.
Issue. Can words alone constitute adequate provocation to justify a conviction of manslaughter rather than murder?
The crime of murder may be reduced to manslaughter if the Defendant acted in response to provocation. The “Rule of Provocation” requires: (1) adequate provocation; (2) the killing was in the heat of passion; (3) the heat of passion must have been sudden, i.e. the defendant did not have time to cool off; and (4) there was a causal connection among the provocation, passion and fatal act.
The Maryland Supreme Court has recognized a few situations that constitute adequate provocation: (1) discovering one’s spouse having sex with another; (2) mutual combat; and (3) assault and battery.
However, almost universally, the courts have rejected words alone as providing adequate provocation unless accompanied by conduct indicating a present intention and ability to cause bodily harm. Hence, the victim’s actions did not constitute adequate provocation for the defendant to act as he did.
Discussion. Words alone are not adequate provocation in order to reduce murder to manslaughter.