State v. Hoyt

In State v. Hoyt, 21 Wis. 2d 284, 128 N.W.2d 645 (1964), the court reviewed the murder of a husband by his wife, who admitted that she shot and killed him with his own gun. The wife was convicted of second-degree homicide, and the appeal turned on whether the circuit court erred in refusing to give a manslaughter instruction. In concluding that the circuit court did err, the supreme court's decision was driven by the victim's history of violence toward the defendant, which it concluded was relevant to the objective test that must be satisfied before sufficient provocation could be shown to warrant a manslaughter instruction. Hoyt, 21 Wis. 2d at 291, 128 N.W.2d at 648. The court reasoned that, in examining the defendant's conduct under the objective standard in a case where there was a long history of violence between the victim and the defendant, it was important to examine more than the victim's actions in the last few minutes before the defendant responded. It instructed: "If we look solely at the action of Mr. Hoyt in the last few minutes before the shooting, it seems clear that such actions would not be sufficient to produce the required degree of disturbance in an ordinarily constituted person not previously subjected to the treatment visited upon Mrs. Hoyt by her husband and disclosed by the record. On the other hand, it seems reasonable that the treatment to which Mrs. Hoyt had been subjected for a long period of time, and the public humiliation of her within the previous hour would have a cumulative effect upon any ordinary person so that the provocation just before the shooting would be greatly magnified." Id. at 291, 128 N.W.2d at 649.