What is a 'Crime of Passion'?

by Ramonica R. Jones

Clara Harris' case is probably the most famous - or infamous - crime of passion in recent history. The Houston dentist repeatedly ran over her adulterous husband in a hotel parking lot. A jury sentenced her to 20 years in prison even though she claimed the murder was not planned.

Licensed Professional Counselor Debra Burton, PhD, said, "There's such an intensity of emotion - it goes from anger to rage and when we look at rage, rage is a disconnect of the feelings of love. You are just reacting to an intense pain and you're doing whatever you can do to reduce that pain and that's usually when the crime occurs."

Crimes of passion don't happen often in East Texas, but authorities said killing someone or committing some other violent crime in the heat of the moment does not justify the act - which is why many of the cases do not stand up in court.

Lufkin Police lieutenant, David Young, said, "Sudden passion means there is no pre-planning. If you happen to walk into your home and catch your spouse in the arms of another and you immediately lash out and that person is killed, you may have an argument for sudden passion. If you come into that same situation and you have to go into another room to retrieve something to hit them with, you probably lost the argument."

People who commit crimes of passion are usually emotionally volatile or abuse drugs and alcohol.

"Just like with violence, it's very hard to predict - we don't have that down to a science at all," Burton said. "If you saw pictures of Clara Harris with her children, you would never in your wildest dreams predict this is a woman that committed this heinous crime."

And acting first, thinking later can cause more pain than what prompted the crime of passion in the first place.