Criminal Law, Pages 260–264

State v. Castagna

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, 2005


The deceased Grant, a large man, had confrontations with two women in and outside of a bar. These confrontations eventually led to a mob chasing Grant roughly 400 yards, a Jeep hitting him, and the crowd beating him with their fists, feet, and various objects. Finally, defendant Morales dropped a 25-pound on Grant's head, splitting it open and killing him.

Procedural History:

Morales was convicted of murder and sentenced to fifty years. The jury was not charged on provocation manslaughter.


Could Morales have been provoked?


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Passion/provocation manslaughter has four specific elements:

  1. reasonable and adequate provocation;
  2. insufficient cooling-off time;
  3. actual passion caused by the provocation; and
  4. no actual cooling off.


Testimony that Grant violently attacked Morales's friends was presented. This mutual combat could have constituted adequate provocation to reduce murder to manslaughter. This is well-settled even if the conduct was directed at a friend instead of the actual defendant.

A jury could also conclude that there was no cooling off time after Grant attacked the two women. While the defendants chased him for a long distance, the mob reached a state of frenzy in doing so. A rational jury could find that Morales, as one caught up in these events, did not have an opportunity to cool off.


Yes, Morales could have been provoked. Reversed and remanded.