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People v. Berry

Supreme Court of California
556 P.2d 777 (1976)


People v. Berry

Facts

Albert Berry (defendant) and Rachel Pessah were married in May 1974. Three days after their marriage, Rachel traveled alone to her home country of Israel. Rachel returned on July 13. Upon her return, Rachel announced to Albert that she had fallen in love with another man, he was coming to America to retrieve her, and she wanted a divorce. Over the ensuing two weeks, Rachel alternated between taunting Albert with her involvement with the other man and expressing her desire to remain with Albert. During one disagreement, Albert choked Rachel. She responded by deeply scratching him. The two continued to live together. On July 22, Rachel initially told Albert that she wanted to engage in sexual intercourse with him, but then said she was saving herself for the other man. When Albert prepared to leave the apartment, Rachel began yelling at him. Albert then choked Rachel into unconsciousness. Rachel was hospitalized, and Albert spent the next several nights away from the apartment. On July 25, Rachel informed Albert that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Albert returned to the apartment to talk to Rachel, but she was not there. Albert spent that night alone in the apartment. On July 26, Rachel returned to the apartment. Upon seeing Albert, Rachel said, “I suppose you came here to kill me.” Albert responded with “yes,” then “no,” then “yes” again, before finally saying, “I have really come to talk to you.” Rachel began screaming. Albert grabbed her by the shoulder to stop her from screaming. They struggled, and Albert strangled Rachel. The next day, police found Rachel dead. Albert was arrested and confessed to the killing. At trial, Albert testified that he was provoked into killing Rachel because of a sudden and uncontrollable rage. At trial, a psychiatrist testified that Rachel suffered from suicidal impulses and that these impulses led her to provoke Albert into killing her. The psychiatrist stated that as a result of this provocation, Albert was in a state of uncontrollable rage at the time of the killing. The jury found Albert guilty of first-degree murder. Albert appealed the conviction. Albert stated that there was sufficient evidence to show that he committed the killing while in the heat of passion, thus entitling him to a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter. The Supreme Court of California heard the appeal.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sullivan, J.)

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