Commonwealth v. ShelleyAnnotate this Case
A defendant charged with murder is not entitled to a lesser included offense instruction when the defendant cannot be convicted of the offense of manslaughter due to the statute of limitations. The defendant, however, may elect to waive the statute of limitations and invoke his or her right to the lesser included offense instruction of manslaughter.
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree, as a participant in a joint venture. The trial judge reduced the murder conviction to murder in the second degree on Defendant’s motion. Defendant would have been entitled to a manslaughter instruction had the limitations period not run. During his trial, Defendant requested that the judge instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter. The trial judge gave Defendant the choice to waive the statute of limitations to invoke his right to the lesser included offense instruction, but Defendant declined to waive his statute of limitations defense. Therefore, the judge did not instruct the jury on manslaughter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial judge correctly allowed Defendant to choose between asserting the statute of limitations defense or his right to a manslaughter instruction.