Crimes of Passion: What is a Crime of Passion?
The term crime of passion is derived from the French expression crime passionel, which is a crime committed in the heat of the moment as a result of sudden emotion. A classic case would be that of a man who discovers his wife in the arms of another man and kills him in a fit of anger. This is a defense used by accused during a court trial when they claim that they have not committed a murder. It is also related to the plea of temporary insanity, where an accused claims to have temporarily lost sanity and committed a crime.
A crime of passion doesn’t involve any premeditation or what is known as malice afterthought. In a crime involving malice, the accused would have plotted the crime, made arrangements and then carried it out. When there is no premeditation, it happens on the spur of the moment. This has been used as a defense to get acquitted. Usually, crimes of passions are reduced to manslaughter if the plea is accepted.
How does it happen?
As the name suggests, it happens in a fit of passion. The accused would have encountered the victim in a particular situation that would lead to a fit of rage overpowering the emotions of the accused. Many emotions would have flooded through the mind of the accused making him lose control. As a result of this, the accused enters into an argument or altercation with the victim, which could lead to deadly consequences with the accused physically attacking the victim.
Such an attack happens within a short space of time. If the situation is resolved and the accused returns to commit the crime, then it would be premeditation. A crime of passion is where there is no cooling period, where the accused can think about what has happened and the consequences of his actions.
In the absence of a cooling period, the altercation happens with the accused not able to think about the results of his action. The intention may not be to kill but may lead to a physical attack to release pent-up emotions. This is what happens in a crime of passion.
Infamous crime of passion cases
- The Lorena Bobbitt case: In this infamous case, a lady named Lorena Bobbitt cut off the sex organ of her husband in a fit of passion, claiming that her husband John Wayne Bobbitt sexually abused her. After a highly charged trial, Lorena’s defense of a crime committed in the heat of the moment was accepted by the jury, and she was acquired.
- The Barton Key murder: Phillip Barton Key was having an affair with the wife of Congressman Daniel Sickles. Key was shot dead by Sickles. During the trial, Sickles claimed to be temporarily insane, which was accepted by the jury that acquitted him.
- The Nicole Simpson murder: Nicole Simpson Brown and a waiter Ron Goldman were found murdered outside her house. Her husband O J Simpson was tried for the crime. But he was acquitted, though the public always believed he was guilty.
The defense of crimes of passion
A crime of passion has to defended against manslaughter too. While defending such a case what needs to be brought out is that the act did not have pre-planning or premeditation. It also has to be proved that the provocation was severe enough. An affair with a spouse or lover or loss of valuable property is a strong case for a crime of passion for a proper defense.
There are many instances of crimes of passion that occur, each one has its circumstances, and the result of the trial depends on the circumstances involved.
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