Michigan Criminal Law: Homicide; Voluntary Manslaughter

If there is an alleged criminal act resulting in somebody’s unfortunate demise, there are litany of potential charges that may be filed. Intent is often a key issue and determining factor. One of those charges may include voluntary manslaughter. MCL 750.321, .324, .329, 752.861.

This particular charge has three components which “comprise the test for voluntary manslaughter.’ (1) ‘[T]he defendant must kill in the heat of passion,’ (2) ‘the passion must be caused by an adequate provocation,’ and (3) enough time must not have elapsed to have permitted a reasonable person to control his or her passions.'” M Crim JI 16.8; People v Pouncey, 437 Mich 382, 388, 471 NW2d 346 (1991).

“Provocation” is a key distinguishing factor between this charge and more severe murder charges. Provocation relates to a person’s intent and how they were reacting to the circumstances, and as the court in People v King, 98 Mich App 146, 296 NW2d 211 (1980) noted;” provocation is a mitigating factor that negates malice and reduces murder to manslaughter.” (citing M Crim JI 16.8).

The jury instruction for this offense breaks it down as follows:

(1)  [The defendant is charged with the crime of / You may also consider the lesser charge of*] voluntary manslaughter. To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

(2) First, that the defendant caused the death of [name deceased] , that is, that [name deceased] died as a result of [state alleged act causing death] .

(3) Second, that the defendant had one of these three states of mind: [he / she] intended to kill, or [he / she] intended to do great bodily harm to [name deceased] , or [he / she] knowingly created a very high risk of death or great bodily harm knowing that death or such harm would be the likely result of [his / her] actions.

[(4) Third, that the defendant caused the death without lawful excuse or justification.]

M Crim JI 16.8.

The instruction is slightly different if this charge is being offered as a reduced count from a murder charge. See M Crim JI 16.9.

This is a serious felony charge. People convicted of this charge may be potentially looking at a long prison sentence depending upon their alleged circumstances.
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Anyone charged, of course, is presumed innocent. The prosecutor would need to prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt if the matter proceeded to trial. Simply because a person is charged does not mean that they will be convicted.
If you need specific legal advice for your particular circumstances, I encourage you to privately consult with a lawyer. Circumstances may vary significantly.
If you are charged with an offense and cannot afford to pay for your own defense, the court may appoint you an attorney payable at the public’s expense. You have a right to counsel.