What is a Crime of Passion?
Is it a Viable Legal Defense?
We hear about crimes of passion all the time. A man walks in on his wife and her lover, then shoots them both in the head for their transgressions. A crime of passion is usually a murder or an assault that is precipitated by jealousy, an act that wasn't planned (premeditated), but occurred for no other reason than pure emotional violence. In the past, many murderers have escaped murder charges or even prison because of this legal defense. The purpose for a crime of passion defense is to rule out one very important element of murder: premeditation. In order for an individual to be convicted of first- or second-degree murder, he or she must have had intent. In other words, the perpetrator decided that he wanted to kill the victim, planned how to do it, then executed his plan. If there is no intent, or premeditation, the charges must be dropped to manslaughter or some other lesser charge. But is a crime of passion a viable legal defense? Do juries actually buy the notion that a person committed serious assault or murder simply because he was enraged by jealousy? Absolutely. In fact, Texas is known as one of the states with the highest frequency of crimes of passion, as juries often sympathize with a defendant who claims to have committed a crime of passion. We can commiserate with someone who suddenly discovers that his or her spouse is involved with someone else, and can therefore justify giving the defendant a pass. Sometimes. Most good defense attorneys realize that claiming a crime of passion is a dangerous legal strategy, and a defense that should be used only at the absence of any viable alternatives. If the defendant says something wrong, or if the prosecution has ample evidence to the contrary, the jury might very well convict on murder charges, which could include capital punishment. Furthermore, certain elements must be proven in order to claim a crime of passion....
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