Ted, a struggling lawyer, thinks it's unfair that the partners in his law firm work fewer hours than he does but earn ten times what he does. To rectify the injustice and get what's due to him, Ted kidnaps Ken, the partner who plays the biggest role in the business and for whose he hopes Joe will pay a lot of money. Ted recognizes that kidnapping is a felony, but thinks he will not be caught.
Ted hears Ken leaving late one evening and follows him out to his car. Wearing a mask, Ted pulls out a gun and orders Ken not to turn around. Ken turns and asks Ted what he's doing, causing Ted to lose his cool. Ted only means to knock Ken unconscious, but when he hits him in the head with the gun Ken is killed. Ted goes home and finds Joe in bed with Ted's wife. Ted then goes to a friend's house and after discussing things the two agree that Ted should turn himself in. Ted tells his friend he first wants to go home to repair his relationship with his wife, but shoots her instead, and then calls the authorities to confess.
Ted is charged with both murders and opts to defend himself. He argues that Ken's death was accidental, and so he can't be convicted of murder; he never intended to kill Ken, and so can only be accused of manslaughter. Similarly, he says he can't be charged with the murder of his wife because the crime was committed in the heat of passion and with extreme provocation; manslaughter is the only reasonable conviction.
Are Ted's defenses valid? Give the legal analysis you use to reach your conclusions.
Ted’s attempt at defenses may show why he is a struggling lawyer. Neither of his defenses stands a chance. As the judge in this case, I would reject both defenses out of hand.
Ted’s first defense has to do with his accidental killing of Ken. It is true that Ted did not mean to kill Ken. In some circumstances, that would be enough of a defense. The problem in this case, however, is that he killed Ken while he (Ted) was trying to commit a felony (kidnapping). This makes the killing a felony murder. Felony murder is a killing that is committed in the process of committing a separate crime. A killer does not have to have meant to kill. The fact that the killing occurred while the killer was committing a separate crime makes it a murder, regardless of the killer’s intent. Therefore, I would reject Ted’s defense to the charge of murdering Ken.
Ted’s second defense has to do with his intentional killing of his wife. He says that he killed her in the “sudden heat of passion.” The problem with this defense is that there was a long time period between the incident that would have aroused his passion and the killing. In order to claim heat of passion as a defense, the killer has to kill their victim immediately after having been provoked. Ted is right to claim that catching his wife having sex with another man is a serious provocation. If he had killed her right then, he would have had a decent shot at using the heat of passion defense. Instead, Ted went away, spent a long time talking to Mike, drove home, and only then killed his wife. This is so long after the provocation that it is ridiculous to claim that the crime was committed in the heat of passion.
For these reasons, I would reject both of Ted’s defenses in this case.