A and B are a married couple. They have suffered significant marital troubles for the past few months. Specifically, A, the wife, suspects B, the husband, of resuming an intimate relationship with B’s ex-girlfriend. A’s suspicions arise from the fact that B has frequently been coming home late from work, and he has been spending weekends away on “business trips.”
One day, A arrives home from work to find B speaking on the telephone. (Being fully immersed in the conversation, B doesn’t hear A walk in.) A suspects that B may be speaking to his ex-girlfriend, because A overhears B saying, among other things, “I love spending time with you,” “My wife isn’t what she used to be,” and “Let’s get away this weekend.” A interrupts B to ask with whom he is speaking. Startled, B replies that he is speaking with “a work friend.” Angered by what A believes is a lie, A storms into the bedroom and slams the door.
After spending some time in the bedroom, A decides to confront B openly. To that end, A emerges from the bedroom and exclaims, “I know you’ve been cheating on me!” Distraught and visibly angry, B replies, “Yes, what else did you expect? You’re a lousy wife, and I never wanted to marry you.” B pauses for a moment to await A’s response. Hearing none, B continues his tirade: “I’ll divorce you in a hot second. I’ll get the best divorce lawyer in town, and you’ll walk out of this marriage without a dime.”
A moment later, A asks B whether he really means what he said. B answers: “Yes. What are you going to do about it?” A replies, “Give me a minute,” and then begins to experience an intense panic attack with accompanying heart palpitations. All this clouds her ability to think clearly. A few moments later, A walks over to the kitchen table, grabs a steak knife, and hides it behind her back. Knife in hand, A walks over to B and stabs B 10 times in various parts of his chest. B soon dies as a result.
In a common-law jurisdiction, A is arrested and charged with homicide. Homicide is defined as the “unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought.” This jurisdiction has adopted the common-law classifications for homicide: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. In this jurisdiction, words alone are not adequate provocation for purposes of voluntary manslaughter.
Assume the prosecution could prove the above facts at A’s trial.
- Is A liable for homicide, and if so, what type? Explain, discussing A’s possible liability for first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter, but do not discuss involuntary manslaughter.