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Rowland v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi
35 So. 826 (1904)


Rowland (defendant) and his wife, Becky, were separated but on good terms. Becky had been staying in the spare room of another married couple, the Pates, for approximately two months, where Rowland would regularly visit her. One night Rowland arrived at the Pates’ home and noticed a horse belonging to another man, Thorn, tied to the fence. As he approached the house, he heard a man and a woman talking in the spare room, which was dark. Suspicious, he tried to gain entry to the room, but the door was locked, so he entered through the front, where he found the Pates asleep in their bed. He called for Becky, and when she did not respond, he went into the back room and saw Becky and Thorn in the act of adultery. Thorn and Becky, who was in her nightclothes, saw Rowland and fled. Rowland shot at Thorn, killing Becky instead. Rowland was charged with murder. At trial, the court did not instruct the jury as to manslaughter, but instead that “murder is the killing of a human being without authority of law… when done with the deliberate design to effect the death of the person killed.” Rowland was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. He appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court of Mississippi.

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