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Rowland v. State

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Rowland (Defendant) shot at a man he found in bed with his wife, but accidentally killed his wife instead.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When an individual commits homicide in reaction to witnessing his spouse committing adultery, the appropriate charge is manslaughter, not murder.

    Facts.

    Defendant saw his wife getting out of bed with another man and was enraged. He shot at the man, but hit and killed his wife instead. Defendant was convicted of murder and appealed.

    Issue.

    When an individual commits a homicide in reaction to witnessing his spouse committing adultery, is the appropriate charge manslaughter?

    Held.

    (Truly, J.) Yes. When an individual commits homicide in reaction to witnessing his spouse committing adultery, the appropriate charge is manslaughter, not murder. A homicide committed in the heat of passion is manslaughter, not murder. Adultery is inherently provocative, and so the law presumes that a homicide committed under such provocation is manslaughter. Defendant’s murder conviction was improper. Reversed.

    Discussion.

    Different jurisdictions vary in how much a defendant needs to see of the adulterous act in order to get the benefit of this rule. For some, the defendant must actually have seen intercourse. The majority view, however, applied the rule whenever the defendant witnessed anything that would lead him to conclude with reasonable certainty that the spouse was being unfaithful.


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