Court Cases

Florida’s New and Improved Heat of Passion Manslaughter Instructions

In 2010, I wrote an article, which was published in “Res Gestae”, the Lee County Bar Association magazine, entitled “The Necessity for a Special Jury Instruction On Heat of Passion Manslaughter.” (The article can be viewed on my profile at AVVO, on my website at www.justiceisourpassion.com, or at my old blog – Brenerscriminallawblog.blogspot.com). In that piece, I advocated for the need for a jury instruction on heat of passion manslaughter, as the standard instruction gave the jury only the option of finding the defendant guilty of murder, or not guilty, and had no option to find the defendant guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter. I noted that community standards of behavior had changed since the excusable homicide statute had been enacted, and that contemporary jurors were highly unlikely to completely exonerate a person who intentionally killed another, albeit under the influence of passion. In addition, despite the existence of case law authorizing the use of the heat of passion doctrine to reduce the culpability and legal liability of one acting under such passion, the standard instruction provided no definitions or guidance as to the elements of this recognized partial defense, or as to the circumstances under which a jury could thus exercise its inherent “pardon power.”

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