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State v. Dumlao

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant, Vidado Dumlao, was convicted of murder after shooting and killing his mother-in-law.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    If a crimnal defendant causes the death of another person while under extreme emotional or mental disturbance, which there is no explanation for, and the reasonableness is judged on a subjective standard from the viewpoint of a person in the defendants situation, then the jury can mitigate a murder charge to manslaughter.

    Facts.

    Dumlao was charged with the murder of his mother-in-law after shooting and killing her. At trial, Dumlao called an expert witness to testify that Dumlao suffered from a paranoid personality disorder and one of the symptoms of this disorder was a pathological jealously regarding his wife. Dumlao’s testimony confirmed the nature of his extreme jealousy during the murder. Dumlao requested the trial judge instruct the jury that if they believed that the night of the murder, Dumlao suffered from extreme emotional disturbance for which there was a reasonable explanation, they can mitigate his charge to manslaughter. The trial judge rejected Dumlao’s request. 

    Issue.

    Whether if a criminal defendant causes the death of another person while under extreme emotional or mental disturbance, which there is no explanation for, and the reasonableness is judged on a subjective standard from the viewpoint of a person in the defendants situation, then the jury can mitigate a murder charge to manslaughter.

    Held.

    Yes. If a criminal defendant causes the death of another person while under extreme emotional or mental disturbance, which there is no explanation for, and the reasonableness is judged on a subjective standard from the viewpoint of a person in the defendants situation, then the jury can mitigate a murder charge to manslaughter.

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    Courts must apply a subjective/objective test when deciding whether a defendant's conduct was reasonable from the viewpoint of a person in the defendants shoes under the circumstances that the defendant believed he was in. That is not to say the test is the same as the insanity defense because an insanity defense, if proven, will relive a defendant of any culpability, but the extreme emotional disturbance test is only mitigating a crime. Furthermore, insanity refers to a specific condition of the defendant and the extreme emotional disturbance test reflects fears and weaknesses of the public in general. The evidence provides that Dumlao believed, in his perspective, he had a reasonable explanation for shooting his mother. Moreover, he suffered from an extreme emotional disturbance the night of the shooting.  


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