The key is whether this provocation was sufficient to send a reasonable person into an
uncontrollable rage. The provocation must neither be sought by the accused nor induced by the accused
as an excuse for killing or doing harm. There must also be suddenness of passion. If a reasonable
person would have had sufficient time to "cool off" between the provocation and the killing, the offense
is murder. Part IV, MCM 1984, para 44(c) (1) (b). Examples of acts which may, constitute adequate
provocation are the unlawful infliction of great bodily harm, unlawful imprisonment, and the sight by
one spouse of an act of adultery committed by the other spouse. Insulting or abusive words or gestures,
a slight blow with the hand or fist, and trespass or other injury to property are not, standing alone,
QUESTION: What is meant by standing alone?
ANSWER: The Army Court of Criminal Appeals clarified the meaning of the qualifying clause "stand
alone" in United States v. Saulsberry, 43 MJ 649 (ACCA 1995). In Saulsberry, the Army Court found
the facts as follows:
The appellant was peaceably watching television in his own room when SPC Speed entered without
invitation, opened the appellant's refrigerator, and consumed one of his drinks. Furthermore, the
conduct was accompanied by loud and abusive remarks about the appellant. When these events led to a
confrontation and shoving match that the appellant broke off, SPC Speed attacked the appellant from the
rear, threw him down on the bed, began to choke him, and then subdued and humiliated him in front of
other soldiers. The appellant then retreated to his corner of the room where he sat on his bed. He was
again confronted by the swaggering and foul-mouthed SPC Speed who taunted him by calling him 'all
sorts of names.' Specialist Speed asked, 'What are you going to do mother ----, and f--- you, what are
you going to do, chicken ----?' He also challenged the appellant, 'Do you want me to teach you a lesson.'
All of these epithets were delivered by SPC Speed while he stood adjacent to the appellant's bed and
while he leaned over in the appellant's face in a menacing manner. Id. at 651-652.
The appellant then stabbed SPC Speed once in the heart, killing him. Id. at 650. Saulsberry was
convicted at court-martial of unpremeditated murder, but the Army court found the evidence "sufficient
to support only a conviction for voluntary manslaughter." Id. at 649. The court reasoned "that these
provocations were adequate to provoke uncontrollable rage, fear and passion in a reasonable person.
Thus, the conviction for unpremeditated murder cannot stand." Id. at 652.
2. Involuntary Manslaughter (Article 119(b) (2), UCMJ). Involuntary manslaughter can be
committed in one of two ways: through culpable negligence or by causing a death while committing or
attempting to commit an offense directly affecting the person, other than burglary, sodomy, rape, robbery,
or aggravated arson. Note that these are the five offenses covered in the felony murder rule. As the
Manual for Courts-Martial points out, culpable negligence is a degree of carelessness greater than simple
negligence. It is a negligent act or omission which is accompanied by a culpable disregard for the