Kidnapping Thwarted by Parents, Suspect Killed
On the night of July 11, a mother pulled into the parking lot of a pizza restaurant to talk to her boyfriend. She left the car running with three children inside, aged between seven months old and five years old. The boyfriend was the father of two of the children.
While she was inside, a man jumped into the vehicle and took off. However, he didn't get very far – traffic at the intersection was heavy and he had to stop.
The boyfriend from the pizza parlor caught up to the car, pulled the car thief out of the vehicle, and began beating him. Other bystanders, hearing what was happening, also joined in.
By the time police responded to the scene, the attempted kidnapper was unconscious with severe injuries to his head and face. He was brought to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
None of the children were hurt. Both parents were brought in for questioning but no charges have been filed against them yet.
Violent Crimes and the Heat of Passion Defense in Pennsylvania
If you ignore the circumstances of the situation, the boyfriend and the bystanders who participated in the attack would likely face murder charges for intentionally killing the man.
However, one of the defenses to a violent crime like this is the “heat of passion” defense. This defense argues that, while the violent crime did happen, the defendant is not as culpable because they were acting in the heat of passion.
It is up to the defendant in a criminal case to prove that they were acting in the heat of passion when they hurt someone. Proving the defense requires showing that the defendant was reacting to a provocation that would have excited an unrestrainable passion in a normal person, this passion caused the reaction that hurt the victim, and there was no time for the defendant to calm down.
The classic example of a heat of passion defense in action is when a man finds his wife in bed with someone else, flies into a rage, and seriously hurts or kills someone.
This case, where parents pursued and caught the man trying to kidnap their children, could very easily lead to a heat of passion defense.
However, any bystanders who contributed to the kidnapper's killing would likely not be able to invoke the heat of passion defense because it was not their children involved.
Criminal Defense in Philadelphia: Joseph D. Lento
As we'll discuss in our next blog post, claiming that you acted in the heat of passion is a risky defense because it does not lead to an acquittal – it merely reduces the sentence or the severity of the crime.