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Name: People v. Moye
Case #: S157980
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/24/2009
Summary

To warrant an instruction on a sudden quarrel/heat of passion theory of voluntary manslaughter, there must be evidence that defendant killed while subjectively under the actual influence of a strong passion aroused by a provocation sufficient to cause an ordinary person of average disposition to act rashly or without due deliberation and reflection, and from this passion rather than from judgment. Appellant and the victim were involved in a fight on Saturday night. The next morning, appellant came across the victim, confronted him, and bludgeoned him with a baseball bat, inflicting fatal injuries. At trial, appellant testified that on Sunday, when he encountered the victim, the victim kicked appellant’s car and then ran. Appellant chased the victim to see where he went so that he could advise the police when he reported the car-kicking. When he approached victim, the victim assaulted him with a baseball bat but appellant took the bat from him and defended himself with it. By his own testimony, appellant stated that he was no longer angry about the Saturday night fight and was not angry about the car kicking–he only struck the victim in self-defense. The trial court gave an instruction on imperfect self-defense but declined to instruct on heat of passion, finding that there was no credible evidence presented to support such an instruction. The Court of Appeal concluded that the events that occurred when appellant caught up with the victim and the victim turned on him with the bat, could qualify as reasonable provocation and reversed; but the Supreme Court agreed with the trial court. In a murder case, the trial court must instruct on defenses supported by substantial evidence that could lead to conviction of the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter. (People v. Breverman (1998) 19 Cal.4th 142.) In this case, however, substantial evidence was lacking that the defendant killed while subjectively under the actual influence of “a strong passion aroused by a ‘provocation’ sufficient to cause an ‘ordinary [person] of average disposition . . . to act rashly or without due deliberation and reflection, and from this passion rather than from judgment.'” The Court further found that even if it was error not to instruct on heat-of-passion, it was harmless – by rejecting the instructed upon imperfect self-defense theory, the jury had perforce considered the evidence relevant to heat of passion.