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People v. Casassa

Court of Appeals of New York
 404 N.E.2d 1310 (N.Y. 1980)


Facts

Victor Casassa (defendant) lived in the same apartment complex as Victoria Lo Consolo. Shortly after they met, they began dating socially for a brief period. After Lo Consolo told Casassa that she was not “falling in love” with him, Casassa became devastated and undertook bizarre acts such as breaking into her apartment while she was away and lying in her bed naked for a while. During the break-in, Casassa was in possession of a knife “because he knew that he was either going to hurt Victoria or Victoria was going to cause himself to commit suicide.” After Lo Consolo rejected Casassa’s last attempt to win her over, he took out a knife and stabbed her several times. Casassa then dragged her body into the bathroom and submerged her in a tub full of water to “make sure she was dead.” Casassa was charged with second-degree murder and waived his right to a jury trial. The sole issue at trial was whether, at the time of the killing, he acted under the influence of “extreme emotional disturbance.” Defense counsel presented one witness, a psychiatrist who testified that Casassa became obsessed with Lo Consolo. The prosecution produced several rebuttal witnesses including a psychiatrist who said that although Casassa was emotionally disturbed, he was not under the influence of “extreme emotional disturbance.” The trial court concluded that the appropriate test to determine whether Casassa was under the influence of “extreme emotional disturbance” was to examine the totality of the circumstances from the perspective of Casassa as well as from the point of view of a reasonable person. The court found Casassa’s emotional reaction at the time of the killing was so peculiar that it could not be considered reasonable so as to reduce the charge of second-degree murder to manslaughter. Casassa was convicted of second-degree murder and he appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Jasen, J.)

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