Reducing murder to manslaughter is a task that presents itself in many murder cases. Depending on your state or jurisdiction you may be able to reduce murder to manslaughter by eliminating the element of “malice.” Classically, this is where the defendant acts by being provoked into a sudden quarrel or into a state of mind known as the “heat of passion.” The mental state of “heat of passion” is not just one emotion. It can be anger, jealously, or any other agitated state of mind in the normal range of human behavior.
If a person is intentionally killed but the defendant was provoked or was in the heat of passion due to some provocative circumstance of the alleged victim, the killing is said to be mitigated to voluntary manslaughter. The defendant cannot just set up his or her own standard of conduct. The situation causing the heat of passion must be such that a reasonable person under the circumstances would have been provoked to act out of passion rather than logic. The classic example given in law schools is where a person comes home unexpectedly and finds their spouse in bed with another person. This is the type of act that could cause any reasonable person to act out of passion and emotion rather than logic.
Criminally negligent murder is a crime which is considered to be a lesser offense than first and second degree murder. This murder charge is given when an action results in the unintentional death of an innocent person. The penalties for conviction and the exact definition of the charges vary from state to state. In some states, the murder is named “criminally negligent manslaughter.” This is due to the fact that in these murder cases, the accused criminal did not intend harm or pose a direct deadly threat to the victim.
Willful blindness is a term often associated with these murder charges. It defined as occurring when a person who should understand the potentially dangerous effects of a dangerous action chooses to ignore them and commits the dangerous behavior anyways. Willful blindness that results in death will most likely lead to criminally negligent murder charges.
There are two main reasons why people are charged with this crime. The most common reason for this charge is drinking and driving. Drunk drivers are aware that they are putting people’s lives in danger and still choose to drive drunk or under the influence. The other main cause of this charge involves willful blindness in a person’s profession. This can include medical malpractice where a doctor is aware of deadly consequences related to action or inaction in a specific situation. Another example is a construction or maintenance worker who fails to perform their job correctly, knowing that their actions are dangerous.
To show that a killing is either voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter, a thorough investigation, analysis, and reconstruction is mandated. Even if the act was not the type that would justify reducing a murder to manslaughter, the fact that the defendant was in the heat of passion could eliminate premeditation and deliberation and reduce the degree of the murder.