Is Killing In Self Defense Manslaughter In Virginia ?
In Virginia, "manslaughter is a common law offense." Blythe v. Commonwealth, 222 Va. 722, 725, 284 S.E.2d 796, 797 (1981).
The common law traditionally recognized a circumstance in which a "'killing in self-defense will be manslaughter only.'" Hash v. Commonwealth, 88 Va. 172, 194, 13 S.E. 398, 405 (1891).
This common law doctrine is generally called "the imperfect right of self-defense." Id. at 193, 13 S.E. at 405. The Supreme Court has described the doctrine as follows:
Here is a clear recognition of the doctrine that, although the slayer provoked the combat, or produced the occasion, yet, if it was done without any felonious intent, the party may avail himself of the plea of self-defense. . . .
"Indeed the assertion that one who begins a quarrel or brings on a difficulty with the felonious purpose to kill the person assaulted, and accomplishes such purpose, is guilty of murder, and cannot avail himself of the doctrine of self-defense, carries with it in its very bosom the inevitable corollary that if the quarrel be begun without a felonious purpose, then the homicidal act will not be murder.
To deny this obvious deduction is equivalent to the anomalous assertion that there can be a felony without a felonious intent; that the act done characterizes the intent, and not the intent the act." Id. at 194-95, 13 S.E. at 405-06.