My uncle was charged with murder. We know that there are cases where the jury finds a person not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. How can this be done?
The first thing to know is that the police have to convince the jury – in any police matter – ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’ Unless the accused pleads guilty, the police usually have to have witnesses to support the evidence that the accused had the intention and the awareness to kill. In all circumstances, defences would have to be either there was no intention and/or there was no awareness. If the jury accept the evidence that the accused did not have the intention to murder, they may find him guilty of manslaughter – and sometimes find him not guilty at all. A case in point is when I handled the murder of someone who was provoked. When there is intense provocation it is possible that the accused may lose control of his mind, even temporarily, and commit murder. I used the defence of ‘dissociative reaction to provocation’. My expert witness, a psychiatrist, defended under cross-examination that it is possible that under the extreme provocation the accused would not have the necessary awareness and intention to fully understand and know what he was doing. My client was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. My client did three years instead of some twenty five years in jail.