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.
For the Rule of Provocation to be invoked there are four requirements: (1) There must have been adequate provocation; (2) the killing must have been in the heat of passion; (3) It must have been a sudden heat of passion--that is, the killing must have followed the provocation before there had been a reasonable opportunity for the passion to cool; (4) There must have been a causal connection between the provocation, the passion, and the fatal act.View Full Point of Law