Provocation As a Defense Case Example In Texas
The leading case on the issue of provocation is Smith v. State, 965 S.W.2d 509 (Tex. Crim. App. 1998). Provocation acts as a limitation or a total bar on a defendant's right to self-defense. Id. at 512.
A court must give a jury charge on provocation when there is sufficient evidence:
(1) that the defendant did some act or used some words that provoked the attack on him;
(2) that such act or words were reasonably calculated to provoke the attack;
(3) that the act was done or the words were used for the purpose and with the intent that the defendant would have a pretext for inflicting harm upon the victim. Id. at 513. All of the elements are questions of fact. Id.
The court should give an instruction on provocation when there is evidence from which a rational jury could find every element of provocation beyond a reasonable doubt. Smith, 965 S.W.2d at 514.In Smith v. State, 965 S.W.2d 509 (Tex. Crim. App. 1998), the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the trial court's decision to instruct the jury on the law of provocation. Smith, 965 S.W.2d at 520.
The defendant in that case killed the victim, Taylor, in a struggle for Taylor's knife. Smith, 965 S.W.2d at 512.
Taylor had taken exception to some comments the defendant had just made toward Taylor's friend, Sadie Fuselier. Id.
There was evidence that Taylor had heatedly warned the defendant to stop his comments, which the defendant did not do. Id.
In its opinion, the court held that the jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt:
(1) that the defendant's continued argument with Fuselier and his unwillingness to stop after Taylor warned him met the requirement of provocation in fact;
(2) that the defendant's continued argument with Fuselier, even after Taylor displayed his knife, was reasonably calculated to provoke the attack;
(3) that the evidence showing the defendant knew his continued argument would provoke Taylor, other evidence showing deeper animosity between the defendant and Taylor, and the fact that the defendant stabbed Taylor twice meant that the defendant intended to provoke Taylor. Smith, 965 S.W.2d at 514-15 & 517-19. Therefore, instructing the jury was not error. Smith, 965 S.W.2d at 520.