Twenty-two-year-old Melanie Eam was sentenced to 50 years in the stabbing death of her ex-boyfriend, 21-year-old James Barry. Barry had told his father, James Barry Sr., that he was unhappy with his relationship but believed that breaking up with his girlfriend would be difficult and did not look forward to seeing her crying. A jury heard about the final conversation that James Barry Sr. had with his son.
A six-person jury convicted Eam of second-degree murder after her first trial ended with the jury hung. Two jurors in the first trial recommended that she be charged with manslaughter while four voted for second-degree murder. This time around, however, there was a consensus. Eam should be charged with second-degree murder.
Eam, who had no criminal history prior to the stabbing, went to Barry’s home where he shared a residence with his mother and her boyfriend hours after Barry had broken up with her over video game chat. She grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed Barry to death. The defense, however, tried to pin the stabbing on Guy Hand, Barry’s mother’s boyfriend who was the first to find Barry after he had been stabbed. Hand described Barry dying in his arms.
Second-Degree Murder vs. Manslaughter
While there’s a lot to unpack with a case like this, one of the major issues the prosecution had was convincing the jury that Eam should be convicted of second-degree murder and not manslaughter. While the prosecution agreed that the murder was not premeditated, they argued unsuccessfully in the first trial that Eam should be convicted of second-degree murder. In this case, understanding the difference is crucial to understanding the prosecution’s position and the jury’s decision.
Voluntary manslaughter is known as “crime of passion” murder. In this case, the defense is forced to prove that the homicide did happen but it was “without intention”. In other words, the defendant simply lost their mind and reacted spontaneously. Second-degree murder, on the other hand, occurs without premeditation but nonetheless with malicious intent. In other words, the prosecution must show that the defendant had malice aforethought or a malicious intent to prove second-degree murder over voluntary manslaughter.
In cases where defense attorneys are able to plead down to voluntary manslaughter or convince a jury that the crime did not rise to the standard of second-degree murder, there must be some serious emotional provocation and they will usually have to show that the defendant did not intend to kill the victim, but merely wanted to lash out at them.
However, in this case, you have a defendant who went over to the victim’s house, grabbed a knife, and then stabbed him to death. While not rising necessarily to the standard of first-degree murder, there was some intent to do something malicious and that directly resulted in the victim’s death.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a crime, the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the Skier Law Firm P.A. can help you get the best defense available under the law. Contact us today and we can go over your options.