The Utah Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a Park City man who killed an acquaintance for giving him a "wedgie," according to court documents.
Erik Kurtis Low was originally charged with first-degree felony murder in the death of Michael Hirschey but was found guilty by a Summit County jury of the lesser charge of manslaughter in 2005. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
In 2003, Low, Hirschey and two other men went to Hirschey's apartment to consume cocaine. Throughout the night witnesses claimed Low was a target of jokes, insults, threats and physical assaults. After Hirschey applied a wedgie to Low's underwear, authorities say Low shot Hirschey with a .357 magnum about 15 seconds later.
Low appealed his conviction, arguing that the district court should not have given the jury the option of finding him guilty in the alternative of manslaughter, but rather the jury should have been asked to either find him guilty of murder or acquit him outright. Low argued this should have been the case mainly because of his claim that he shot Hirschey in self-defense and it was a "perfect" defense to murder.
The Supreme Court ruling agreed with Low's argument, stating the jury should not have been instructed on extreme emotional distress manslaughter because the defense never introduced Low's state of mind at trial.The justices reversed Low's conviction and instructed that prosecutors are barred from retrying Low for murder or manslaughter due to extreme emotional distress or imperfect self-defense. Prosecutors can charge Low with other forms of manslaughter.