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People v Ambro

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Ambro (defendant) was charged with the murder of his wife, Ruth Ambro, after stabbing her with a kitchen knife.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    In support of a conviction for voluntary manslaughter, mere words that cause a serious provocation will suffice to support the conviction if they arose for a culmination of a number of adverse events.

    Facts.

    The marriage between Ambro and his wife, Ruth, was is constant disarray for several months. At one point, while the couple was attending a therapy session Ruth stated that she did not love Ambro anymore and wanted a divorce and Ruth was already in talks with an attorney. Furthermore, one evening after the couple had put their children to bed, Ruth and Ambro began to argue while Ambro was cleaning and drying kitchen knives. Ruth screamed at Ambro that she was going to take the kids away, Ambro would never see them again, and regardless he wasn’t even their real father. Ruth also accused Ambro of being an alcoholic and admitted she was having an affair with another man. Ruth began baiting for Ambro to kill her and he proceeded to stab her in the heart, killing her. Ambro claimed he had no recollection of the stabbing and asked the trial court to mitigate his offense from murder to voluntary manslaughter. The trial court rejected his request and Ambro appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether to support a conviction for voluntary manslaughter, mere words that cause a serious provocation are sufficient to support the conviction if they arose for a culmination of a number of adverse events.

    Held.

    Yes. mere words that cause a serious provocation are sufficient to support the conviction if they arose for a culmination of a number of adverse events.

    Discussion.

    The provocation must be so serious that it ignited an intense heat of passion in a reasonable person, that causes the victim to die, before there is time for the defendant to have a cool reflection. While generally, mere words are not sufficient to cause serious provocation, even in situation where the words are extremely cruel or abusive, courts have carved out an exception. When there is a series of events that include hurtful statements, admissions of adultery, or constant martial disarray, examining the totality of the circumstances can justify mitigating a murder charge down to a voluntary manslaughter charge. Here, there were a series of events that led to Ambro killing his wife, which included Ruth telling Ambro she no longer loved him, accusations Ambro was an alcoholic, and the notion that Ambro was not the father of their children. All of the events ended with Ruth’s admission she was having an extra marital affair and baiting Ambro to kill her. If the jury finds that these events caused a serious provocation, the charge of murder may be mitigated to manslaughter.


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