Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant Casassa was convicted of second-degree murder for the killing of Victoria Lo Consolo, a woman with whom he had become obsessed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The affirmative defense of “extreme emotional disturbance” requires that the defendant act under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance, and there was a reasonable excuse for the extreme emotional disturbance.
In the end, we believe that what the Legislature intended in enacting the statute was to allow the finder of fact the discretionary power to mitigate the penalty when presented with a situation which, under the circumstances, appears to them to have caused an understandable weakness in one of their fellows.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Did the Defendant establish the defense of extreme emotional disturbance?
The extreme emotional disturbance defense is not a complete defense like insanity, but rather, it negates the intent element of murder, thereby reducing the crime to manslaughter.
To prove such a defense, the Defendant must establish that he acted under the influence of an extreme emotional disturbance and there was a reasonable excuse for the extreme emotional disturbance.
Here, the trial court properly found that the Defendant did act under an extreme emotional disturbance. However, the Defendant’s excuse for the disturbance was not reasonable. Rather, the circumstances of the Defendant’s obsession with the victim and the brutal commission of the crime showed malevolence rather than an understandable human response deserving of mercy. Therefore, the Defendant’s conviction for murder was proper.
Discussion. The affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance must be based on a reasonable excuse.