California Jury Instructions on the Heat of Passion Theory of Voluntary Manslaughter

In People v. Jackson (1980) 28 Cal.3d 264, the California Supreme Court held that evidence showing the defendant "may have become enraged and brutally attacked and killed one of his elderly victims because she awakened during the burglary and began to scream" was insufficient to show that he killed his victim in a heat of passion on sufficient provocation. (Id. at p. 306.) The high court observed that "no case has ever suggested . . . that such predictable conduct by a resisting victim would constitute the kind of provocation sufficient to reduce a murder charge to voluntary manslaughter." (Ibid., italics added.) People v. Rich (1988) 45 Cal.3d 1036, involved a murder and sex offense prosecution. There, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the trial court erred in failing to sua sponte instruct the jury on the effect of provocation and heat of passion after the defense presented evidence that the defendant had an "explosive" personality and the victims had resisted being raped. (Id. at p. 1111.) After discussing Jackson, supra, 28 Cal.3d 264, the Rich court held that "the victims' resistance to the criminal act of rape was 'predictable conduct' and is insufficient provocation to negate malice." (Rich at p. 1112.) In Jackson and Rich, the Supreme Court held that the giving of instructions on the heat of passion theory of voluntary manslaughter was not warranted because the alleged provocation was "predictable conduct" of a victim resisting the defendant's criminal acts. (Jackson, supra, 28 Cal.3d at p. 306; Rich, supra, 45 Cal.3d at p. 1112.)