A person is guilty of murder in the state of Connecticut when they:

  • Intend to and succeed in causing the death of another person.
  • Cause the suicide of another by force, coercion or deception.

One way to refute a murder charge is by using an affirmative defense. One such affirmative defense is that the defendant committed the murder under extreme emotional disturbance.

What Constitutes an Extreme Emotional Disturbance?

An extreme emotional disturbance happens when a reasonable explanation or excuse for the act(s) committed exists.

“Reasonableness of the act” gets determined by taking the viewpoint of the defendant under the circumstances as the defendant believed them to exist.

Things Of Note In Extreme Emotional Disturbance And Murder

  • Testimony about the disturbance can happen by the defendant, an ordinary person, or an expert (277 Conn. 281).
  • Extreme emotional disturbance constitutes a subjective standard – that means it must get determined from the defendant’s point of view after considering the circumstances (60 Conn. App. 820).
  • The defendant has to prove that he acted under an extreme emotional disturbance (223 Conn. 273).

What Extreme Emotion Disturbance Doesn’t Mean:

A person is not free and clear if they establish an extreme emotional disturbance. This means that a person cannot be found guilty of murder. That person can still be found guilty of manslaughter in the first degree.

Another affirmative defense to a murder charge is lack of capacity due to mental disease or defect. Evidence that a person suffered from a mental disease, defect or other mental abnormality constitutes admissible evidence in court on the question of whether the defendant acted with an intent to cause the death of another.

Lack of Capacity Due to Mental Disease or Defect

  • This is also known as an insanity plea.
  • It is up to the defendant to prove insanity (225 Conn. 450).
  • The defendant has to prove that he could not distinguish right from wrong or that they could not control their conduct at the time of the offense (229 Conn. 328).
  • With this type of insanity defense, a person will likely have to hire a mental health expert such as a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist for trial.

Not Guilty by Reason of Lack of Capacity Due to Mental Disease or Defect

  • A person is not free to go home.
  • A person will go into a mental health facility.

Important! Voluntary intoxication does not constitutes a defense. It simply gets used to rebut or negate a certain piece of evidence that the state must prove at trial.

The possible penalties for a conviction under 53a-54a are extremely harsh:

  • The mandatory minimum, or amount someone has to serve if convicted, is 25 years.
  • The maximum possible penalty because of a conviction is life.