Criminal Law, Pages 260–264

State v. Castagna

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, 2005

Facts:

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.

Issue:

Could Morales have been provoked?

Rule:

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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.

Reasoning:

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.

Holding:

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

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