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

By Cynthia Lee | Go to book overview

4
Culture and Crime

In 1986, Dong Lu Chen immigrated to the United States from mainland
China with his wife, Jian Wan Chen, and their three children. Dong Lu,
fifty-three years old at the time, had been a farmer in China, but was only
able to find work as a dishwasher in Maryland. Dong Lu lived in Mary-
land. His wife and three children lived in New York where Jian Wan
worked part-time at a garment factory. On his days off, Dong Lu would
travel to New York to be with his wife and family. During one visit, Jian
Wan refused to have sex with Dong Lu. Dong Lu began to suspect that his
wife was having an affair.

In June 1987, Dong Lu decided to move back to New York to live with
his family. He noticed that his wife seemed cold and distant. Dong Lu con-
tinued to suspect his wife of infidelity. Finally, on August 25, Dong Lu
asked Jian Wan whether she was seeing another man. Jian Wan confessed
that she was. Dong Lu walked away without saying anything more. Two
weeks later, on September 7, Dong Lu tried to have sex with his wife. Ac-
cording to Dong Lu, Jian Wan refused, telling him, “I won't let you hold me
because I have other guys who will do this.” This retort angered Dong Lu
who grabbed his wife and pressed her down. “How long has this been
going on?” he shouted in Chinese. Jian Wan, who could barely breathe,
gasped, “For three months.” Her honesty only enraged Dong Lu further.
Dong Lu went into the next room, grabbed a claw hammer, came back to
the bedroom, and struck his wife eight times on the head.1

Dong Lu Chen was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife. At trial, Chen's attorney argued that Chen should be found not guilty of murder because he was temporarily insane at the time of the crime. Chen's attorney further argued that Chen's cultural background negated his culpability in two ways.2 First, according to the defense, any reasonable or ordinary Chinese man would have reacted the way Chen did when he learned of his wife's infidelity. Second,

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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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