Sudden Passion and Murder in Texas
A wife comes home early one day and discovers her husband engaged in sexual activity with another woman. Immediately enraged, the woman goes to her closet, retrieves her gun, and kills both her husband and his lover. At her murder trial, the wife’s attorney asks the jury to consider if the wife acted in “sudden passion” when she committed the murders. What is sudden passion and how would it affect the wife’s sentence if she is convicted of murder?
What is “Sudden Passion”?
Sudden passion is a legal argument that can be raised by a defendant in a murder case in Texas and is raised during the punishment phase of trial in order to try to mitigate or lessen the punishment of a defendant after the defendant is found guilty of murder. For example, after the jury finds the wife guilty of the murder of her husband and his lover, the jury would then be asked to consider if the wife acted in sudden passion at the time the murders were committed. If the jury finds that the wife acted in sudden passion, the wife would be charged with a second-degree felony instead of a first-degree felony. This difference in felony degrees would significantly lessen the range of punishment the wife would receive.
Is Sudden Punishment a Defense to Murder?
Sudden passion is not a defense to murder and cannot be raised until a jury has found a defendant guilty of murder in the guilt/innocence phase of the trial. After the guilt/ innocence phase of a trial, the jury determines a defendant’s punishment in the punishment phase of the trial. The issue of sudden passion is raised during the punishment phase of the trial because a finding of sudden passion only affects the type of punishment that defendant can receive.
How Does The Argument of Sudden Passion Affect Punishment?
If a jury finds a defendant guilty of murder but also finds that a defendant acted in sudden passion when the murder was committed, the murder charge is mitigated from a first-degree felony to a second-degree felony. A murder that is a first-degree felony in Texas will carry a sentence of 5-99 years in a state prison and a fine of no more than $10,000. A murder that is a second-degree felony carries a sentence of 2-20 years and a fine of no more than $10,000.
How does Texas Law Address Sudden Passion?
The Texas Penal Code 19.02(a)(2) defines sudden passion as “passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person killed which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation”. Further, Texas Penal Code 19.02(d) explains that the actions that caused the murder must have arisen while the defendant was under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause. Texas Penal Code 19.02(a)(1) describes an adequate cause of sudden passion as a degree of emotion, such as terror, anger, rage, or resentment; that would be sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection. This cause, however, cannot come from the defendant’s own making and is assessed in a person of ordinary temper. Finally, there must be a causal connection between the provocation, passion, and the murder.
Review by a Client after an Acquittal after a Trial by Jury
By: A. Jones
Title: Murder: Not Guilty
I was arrested for murder on March, 27, 2014 I received a court appointed attorney whose name I won’t discuss. She was no good for me never made communication or put forth the effort to help me. Then a blessing came I received Joetta Keene and Christie Jack. Two of the best lawyers I’ve ever witnessed. They are amazing watching them work left me in awe. I would not want to be on the wrong end of an argument with these ladies. Christie is so soft spoken, but the woman sure can make people tremble in their seat. I was nervous for the opposition. She grilled them good. As far as communication goes this woman did more for me in 2 months than my previous Lawyer did in 2 years this speaks volumes to her work ethic. She prepared for a murder trial at such a short notice. When we got the not guilty verdict. It was the right verdict but it was a well deserved win for this nice lady. Very compassionate, I will forever recommend Mrs. Jack to anyone with legal troubles. One of the best in Texas. No Mrs. Jack was the blessing I needed and as a court appointed attorney she did high class work. Im forever grateful.
Also published on Medium.