Citation. 321 Md. 532, 583 A.2d 718, 1991 Md.12.
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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.
The Defendant and the victim were married. After the Defendant overheard the victim telling a friend that her husband did not love her anymore, the Defendant confronted her and kicked over her plate of food she had in front of her. The Defendant then went to lie down in the bedroom. The victim followed him into the bedroom, stepped onto his back, pulled his hair, and said, “What are you going to do, hit me?” She thereafter continued to taunt and insult him. After she was through, the Defendant went to the kitchen to procure a long handled kitchen knife. He concealed it behind a pillow and returned to the bedroom. After more insults, including that she did not love him and that the marriage was a mistake, the Defendant lunged at the victim with the knife and stabbed her 19 times. Then, the Defendant attempted to commit suicide, but when he realized he would not die from his self-inflicted wounds, he called the police, who found him wandering around outside his apartment buildin
g despondent and tearful.
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.
Words alone are not adequate provocation in order to reduce murder to manslaughter.