In a full-fledged opinion by Justice Cohen, over a dissent, the Second Department determined the jury’s failure to reduce the defendant’s conviction to manslaughter because he was under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance when he killed his girlfriend was against the weight of the evidence. The opinion describes the nature and causes of the defendant’s emotional state in great detail. The court explained the “extreme emotional disturbance” affirmative defense as follows:
We begin our analysis by examining the nature and scope of the affirmative defense of extreme emotional disturbance. Penal Law §§ 125.25(1)(a) and 125.20(2), “[r]ead in tandem,” together “provide that a defendant who proves by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she committed a homicide while under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance for which there was a reasonable explanation or excuse’ is guilty of manslaughter and not murder” … . The defense of extreme emotional disturbance does not negate intent (see Penal Law § 125.20…). Instead, the “defense allows a defendant charged with the commission of acts which would otherwise constitute murder to demonstrate the existence of mitigating factors which indicate that, although [ ] not free from responsibility for [the] crime, [defendant] ought to be punished less severely” … . Although the defense of extreme emotional disturbance is “an outgrowth of the heat of passion’ doctrine which had for some time been recognized by New York as a distinguishing factor between the crimes of manslaughter and murder,” the defense is broader than the “heat of passion” doctrine, and was intended to apply to a “wider range of circumstances” … .
The defense of extreme emotional disturbance comprises two elements. The first element is “wholly subjective” and”involves a determination that the particular defendant did in fact act under extreme emotional disturbance, that the claimed explanation as to the cause of his action is not contrived or sham” … . The subjective element “focuses on the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the crime and requires sufficient evidence that the defendant’s conduct was actually influenced by an extreme emotional disturbance” … . The subjective element is generally associated with a loss of self-control … . The second element, which the Court of Appeals has acknowledged to be “more difficult to describe,” requires that an objective determination be made as to whether there was a reasonable explanation or excuse for the emotional disturbance … . “Whether such a reasonable explanation or excuse exists must be determined by viewing the subjective mental condition of the defendant and the external circumstances as the defendant perceived them to be at the time, however inaccurate that perception may have been'” … . People v Sepe, 2013 NY Slip Op 06030, 2nd Dept 9-25-13