Question

Elizabeth Harris and Paul Thibodeaux lived together with four...

Elizabeth Harris and Paul Thibodeaux lived together with four children. Paul believed he was the bio- logical father of all four children. One afternoon, however, Elizabeth informed Paul that she once had an affair and that he was not the biological father of the 2-month-old baby girl. Devastated by the news, Paul took the infant, walked with her for about a mile, and then killed her. Paul is being charged with murder. He claims that he acted in the "heat of passion" and should only be charged with volun- tary manslaughter. Is Paul guilty of murder or voluntary manslaughter? Was the provocation adequate to reduce the charges? Why or why not?

Answer & Explanation
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Paul should be guilty of murder and not voluntary man slaughter. 

 

Voluntary manslaughter is the punishment when the act of murder is committed in either the heat of passion or in the defense oneself or others. According to jurisprudence and case law, for one to claim the benefit of heat of passion one must prove that the act which resulted from such heat of passion was done immediately and to the extent that the passionate state of the individual incapacitated him to exercise his full discernment. However, in defining what constitutes "immediate" to determine whether the act which arose from the heat of passion can reduce the crime of the defendant from murder to voluntary manslaughter, the Supreme Court has explained that it should be one where "the person does not have the benefit of time to contemplate his actions". As such, to past the test of immediacy in the defense of heat of passion, one must prove that there was no or little amount of time from the provocation to the time of the actual killing.

So is the provocation in this case of Paul sufficient to downgrade his crime from murder to voluntary man slaughter?

 

No, the reason for this is the fact that Paul had to drive a mile away to find a place of where he killed the 2-month baby. In this case, there was already sufficient amount of time between the provocation which gave rise to the heat of passion and the act of killing the child. As such, Paul had already had the benefit of time to contemplate his actions, think of its consequences, and assess the situation. It can even be argued that during the time when Paul drove for a mile, the heat of passion has already subsided and that because he still committed the killing, then it may be said that he voluntary, maliciously, and intently killed the infant. The defense of heat of passion to decrease or downgrade of the crime can no longer be raised in this case as Paul's defense failed to pass the test of immediacy and the continued existence of provocation which may have resulted to the diminution of his discernment when he committed the crime. 

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