Murder and the Reasonable Man: Passion and Fear in the Criminal Courtroom

By Cynthia Lee | Go to book overview

I
Female Infidelity

Albert Joseph Berry, a forty-six-year-old cook, and Rachel Pessah, a
twenty-year-old woman from Israel, were married on May 27, 1974. Three
days after the wedding, Rachel went to Israel by herself. When she re-
turned to the United States on July 13, Rachel told Albert that she had fallen
in love with a man she met in Israel, that she thought she might be preg-
nant by this other man, and that she wanted a divorce.

Nine days later, Albert and Rachel went to a movie. According to Albert,
they engaged in heavy petting at the theater. When they got home, Albert
expected to have sexual intercourse. Rachel, however, refused, telling Al-
bert that although she had earlier intended to make love with Albert, she
decided against it because she wanted to save herself for Yako, the man she
had been seeing in Israel. Albert got angry and began to leave. When
Rachel started screaming at him, he grabbed her by the throat, and choked
her into unconsciousness. Two hours later, Albert called for a taxi to take
his wife to the hospital. Albert then spent the night with a woman friend.

Three days later, Albert returned to the apartment. It was 3:00 P.M. and
Rachel was not in. She did not return to the apartment that night. Through-
out the evening, Albert kept thinking about his wife sleeping with another
man, and it made him steam with anger. When Rachel finally came home
at 11:00 A.M. the next day, she looked at Albert and said, “I suppose you
have come here to kill me.” Albert replied, “Yes,” then “No,” and finally
“Yes” again, followed by “I have really come to talk to you.” Angry words
followed. In an explosion of anger, frustration, and exasperation, Albert
grabbed his wife and strangled her with a telephone cord.1

Albert Berry was charged with first-degree murder and assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury. At trial, Berry's attorney requested a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter, arguing that Berry was provoked into a heat of passion by Rachel's confession

-17-

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Murder and the Reasonable Man: Passion and Fear in the Criminal Courtroom
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Crimes of Passion (The Doctrine of Provocation) 15
  • 1: Female Infidelity 17
  • 2: Unreasonable Women, Gay Men, and Men of Color 46
  • 3: Gay Panic 67
  • 4: Culture and Crime 96
  • Part II - Crimes of Fear (The Doctrine of Self-Defense) 125
  • 5: An Overview of the Doctrine of Self-Defense 127
  • 6: Race and Self-Defense 137
  • 7: Race and Police Use of Deadly Force 175
  • Part III - Rethinking Reasonableness 201
  • 8: The Elusive Meaning of Reasonableness 203
  • 9: Toward a Normative Conception of Reasonableness 226
  • 10: The Act-Emotion Distinction 260
  • Conclusion 276
  • Notes 279
  • Bibliography 349
  • Index 365
  • About the Author 371
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