Bob has made his wife Alice's life a living hell. He beats her
, he closely monitors her movements and he effectively prevents her from living a normal life.
As he's about to beat her for the three-hundredth time, Alice suddenly grabs the ash tray and strikes him across the head. Bob dies on the way to the hospital and Alice is arrested for his murder. There is no doubt that she's done it, but wouldn't anyone else do what she did if faced with what she's gone through?
Alice's lawyers decide that Alice denies murder, but will plead guilty to manslaughter by provocation. The question is now, will the jury agree?
"Manslaughter provocation", in English law, requires actual provocation and must pass a test of whether a reasonable, sober, self-controlled person would do it. The other partial defences are diminished responsibility and suicide pacts.
In the US, it is one of the three partial defences to murder (the others being diminished and unjustified use of force in what they though was self-defence).
In both cases, the crime becomes voluntary manslaughter rather than murder, which could still carry prison time, but it's far less than actual murder charges.
It used to be the case that catching your spouse in the act of adultery was considered sufficient provocation for murder. Generally
most people nowadays agree that you're still not allowed to kill someone for that.
This can be Truth in Television
, Sadly enough
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- Appears in the novel Two Women by Martina Cole.
- This is exactly what Billy Budd did, but it was still handled as murder. The victim only got what he deserved...
- Because the incident occurred in a navy ship on the high seas. If it had happened on land in a civilian situation, it probably would have been Manslaughter by Provocation.
Live Action TV
- The entire plot of Criminal Justice 2, a five-part 2009 BBC mini-series starring Maxine Peake, who kills her abusive husband with a knife. She'd brought the knife to bed planning to kill herself when her husband raped her again, but turned the knife on him. The jury goes for manslaughter provocation. The judge gives her five years, though, enough for her to lose the baby she conceived with another man.
- A Law & Order: UK episode involves a mother killing the man who was responsible for the death of her daughter in a botched kidnapping as he leaves his bail hearing. The CPS have to go for murder as the charge. The jury convict on manslaughter provocation and she gets a suspended sentence. She was in on the original kidnapping and they convict her on gross negligence manslaughter instead.
- This premise was originally used in the American Law & Order.
- Nikki Wade of Bad Girls is a prison lifer for killing a police officer who was trying to rape her partner.
- Waterloo Road, where a pupil kills her sexually abusive father, although it's as yet unclear if she'll get a jury to go for manslaughter provocation, as it was pre-meditated.
- Justified The antagonist's brother is killed by his wife who blows his head off with a shotgun at the dinner table. It is implied that she will plead to manslaughter. Nobody in the town seems to have a problem with what she did since the husband was an abusive drunk who beat her constantly. Even the antagonist considers her actions justified and seems more concerned with the fact that she is now single. This kind of thing appears to be a central theme of the show.
- An episode of Stargate SG-1 plays with the trope. When Teal'c gets an apartment off-base, he helps his next-door neighbor deal with her abusive boyfriend, including teaching her some self-defense techniques. This ends in her "crushing the man's windpipe" during a struggle, and she panics and runs away, prompting the police to look into it as a homicide. By the end of the episode, however, Teal'c manages to obtain what we're told is iron-clad evidence that the killing was in self-defense, and the girl is acquitted.
- A semi-obscure Country Music song by Kenny Rogers, "Harder Cards," deals with the moral dilemma of a police officer called to a scene virtually identical to the one outlined in the Trope description above. The police officer is portrayed as sympathetic, if not in the right, for helping the woman cover up her crime.
- Although played for laughs, the ladies of Chicago plead this in "The Cell Block Tango".
- Silent Hill 2 has two examples:
- Angela Oscoro, the Woobie of the game, killed her father after nearly twenty years of sexual abuse. The effects of her father's abuse have left her unable to be anywhere near others without having a mental breakdown; this can be seen when James attempts to help her and she shrieks at him and runs away instead.
- In a far less sympathetic example, Eddie Dombroski kills five or six people (and one dog) because they made fun of him for being overweight.
- Although from how he talks of it, he just went nuts and killed a dog and shot its owner once before running away.