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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.
The Defendant and the victim had been socially acquainted as a result of residing in the same apartment complex. The two had dated casually for a time until the victim broke it off. The Defendant claims that the end of the relationship devastated him. This rejection by the victim led to an obsession of her by the Defendant that caused him to act in ways that form the basis of his claim of extreme emotional distress. Namely, the Defendant would break into the apartment below the victim to eavesdrop on her relationships with other men. He also broke into the victim’s apartment and lay on her bed naked. Finally, the Defendant visited the victim’s apartment one last time offering gifts of wine and liquor. She rejected him again, and the Defendant produced a steak knife and stabbed her several times in the throat. The Defendant then dragged her to the bathroom and submerged her in a bathtub full of water to ensure her death.
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.
The affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance must be based on a reasonable excuse.