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People v. Berry

Citation. 18 Cal. 3d 509,556 P.2d 777, 134 Cal. Rptr. 415,1976 Cal.
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Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant was convicted of murdering his wife. Defendant alleged that he killed in the heat of passion and thus should only be found guilty of manslaughter.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

There is no specific type of provocation required, verbal provocation may be sufficient.


Defendant was found guilty of murder in the first degree. Defendant’s victim was his wife. The day before her death, he strangled her and she was treated at a hospital. Defendant told a friend of his that he had killed his wife by strangling her. Defendant argued he was only guilty of manslaughter because he had felt a sudden and uncontrollable rage. Defendant said that his wife had taunted him for weeks alleging she wanted a divorce and that she was in love with another man.


Whether Defendant possessed the requisite intent for the crime he was convicted of.


Defendant killed in the heat of passion.
It is a question for the jury as to whether or not s defendant has killed in the heat of passion.

There is no specific type of provocation required, verbal provocation may be sufficient. Passion may be any violent, intense, high wrought or enthusiastic emotion.


The Court found persuasive Defendant’s testimony documenting two weeks of taunting and abuse he sustained from his wife. The Court found that evidence of infidelity and taunts of such could be sufficient to constitute a heat of passion killing. The Court also ruled that Defendant did not have an opportunity to ‘cool down’ and rather, that the final interaction between Defendant and his victim catalyzed the sudden, uncontrollable rage that Defendant killed in.

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