The Supreme Court of Canada recently released their decision in R. v. Tran, a case about a murder that occurred loosely in the context of a domestic assault. The case concerned the quasi-defence of provocation.
Provocation exists as a partial defence only to the charge of murder. Although raising and successfully establishing provocation at trial will not result in an acquittal, it can reduce a first- or second-degree murder conviction to one of manslaughter. A murder conviction carries with it the harshest sentence our criminal justice system can impose: life in prison.
The only substantive difference between a conviction for first-degree murder and second-degree murder is in sentencing. First-degree murder has a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for twenty five years. Second-degree murder has a mandatory minimum of life, with no possibility of parole for ten years. Manslaughter, however, has no minimum sentence. Thus, the importance of establishing provocation in some instances is quite clear.