Browsing through the House of Lords judicial decisions on their website, I was struck by something referenced in one case.
One defence against a charge of murder is that you've been sufficiently provoked *
As Lord Hoffman says, a case in 1942 established two aspects: "First, the provocation had to be such as to temporarily deprive the person provoked of the power of self-control, as a result of which he committed the unlawful act which caused death. Secondly, the provocation had to be such as would have made a reasonable man act in the same way."
But, "in Holmes v. Director of Public Prosecutions  A.C. 588 it was decided that mere words could not constitute provocation, whatever their effect upon the reasonable man might have been."
In those days, you typically went from arrest to – if found guilty – dangling at the end of a rope in the matter of a couple of months.
So as a result, Leonard Holmes was hanged on 28th May 1946, in Lincoln prison.
A few years later, the law was changed so that words alone could indeed be sufficient… Without doing some rather deeper research, I've no idea if he'd have been acquitted had he been tried then.
But it's another reason for me to be against the death penalty.
* This defence has been used in somewhat dubious ways, especially the 'homosexual panic' defence – 'he made a pass at me, so I had to kill him', but that's a post for another day.