Cort Holbrook, a software engineer out of Livermore, was out about town when he noticed that Ricky Zeismer was driving erratically and causing dangerous issues with the traffic ahead. The two eventually pulled over and got into a serious scuffle, with Holbrook receiving several kicks and punches from Zeismer. The road rage incident ended only when Holbrook felt it necessary to stab Zeismer, resulting in his eventual death, in order to protect himself. Holbrook certainly has the cuts and bruises to prove it.
Alameda County prosecutors attempted to charge Holbrook with 2nd degree murder, but were unsuccessful. Instead, a charge of “voluntary manslaughter” was entered and Holbrook will serve somewhere between 4 and 12 years in a California state prison for his actions.
California Penal Code, §192(a) speaks to voluntary manslaughter and the criteria for such a charge are quite specific. In order to be considered voluntary manslaughter, a killing must be committed under certain circumstances – such as a sudden altercation or in the heat of the moment, when passions are high. Furthermore, it must be proven that the accused was provoked and had no choice but to have an irrational response. “Sufficient provocation” is key in these types of cases and, though it is ill defined, the level of provocation must be high in order to enter this defense.
A charge of voluntary manslaughter – as opposed to the far more serious 2nd degree murder – means the difference between a maximum of 11 years in state prison versus life imprisonment or even execution. Following the argument of the criminal defense attorney, the jury agreed with Holbrook – that he acted in self-defense, was sufficiently provoked, and that he acted in the heat of the moment when he chose to take out his knife to protect himself against Zeismer.
If you or someone you know is facing charges of vehicular homicide contact a criminal defense attorney at the San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland or Burlingame offices of Summit Defense Attorneys for free initial consultation.