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Attorney General for Jersey v. Holley

Privy Council
3 All ER 371 (2005)


Facts

Holley (defendant) lived together with his partner, Cherylinn Mullane. They were both alcoholics and frequently had violent fights while drunk. During these arguments, Mullane often made derogatory comments to Holley. On April 13, 2000, the couple began drinking heavily at a pub. Holley went home first and began chopping wood with an axe while drinking beer. By the time Mullane returned from drinking at the pub, Holley had consumed eleven cans and three pints of beer. Mullane told Holley that she had slept with another man. Holley picked up the axe, intending to go out to chop more wood. Mullane thought he meant to hurt her and said that he did not have the guts. Holley then struck Mullane with the axe seven or eight times. At trial, Holley pleaded not guilty to murder, stating that he was provoked into killing Mullane and that he was at most guilty of manslaughter. The Royal Court convicted him of murder. He appealed to the Court of Appeal, which set aside his conviction and scheduled a retrial. During his second trial, an expert testified that Holley’s alcoholism made his binge drinking involuntary. Another expert testified that Holley’s personality traits made him susceptible to provocation. The judge did not allow the jury to consider the expert evidence when considering whether a reasonable person would have acted as the defendant did. The jury convicted Holley of murder. Holley appealed again to the Court of Appeal, which set aside the murder conviction. Rather than order a new trial, the Court of Appeal entered a verdict of manslaughter. This appeal challenges the trial judge’s disallowance of evidence relating to Holley’s personal characteristics, including his history of alcoholism.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Nichols, L.)

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