Court overturns Lindenwold murder conviction

Posted: April 27, 2013

Was it a case of "passion provocation" when Troy Whye, enraged that his girlfriend might leave him, stabbed her 30 times in front of their 2-year-old son, leaving the boy alone, kneeling beside his mother's body, stroking her hair?

If the March 26, 2008, killing was a case of "passion provocation" manslaughter, the jury, improperly, never got a chance to consider it, an appellate panel said Friday.

The three-judge New Jersey Superior Court panel overturned Whye's first-degree murder conviction, sending the case back to Camden County for retrial.

"We are disappointed, but beyond that, we don't want to make any comment," said Jason Laughlin, a spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's office. He said the victim's family declined to comment.

It will be up to the office to decide whether to retry Whye, now 42, release him, or negotiate a plea on a lesser charge.

Though Whye didn't evoke the "passion provocation" defense in his case, instead asserting that there was no direct evidence linking him to the attack in the Lindenwold apartment, the trial judge, Superior Court's Thomas A. Brown, still should have raised that possibility in his instructions to the jury, the appellate court panel said in its 17-page decision.

"A rational basis existed for the jury to consider the lesser-included offense of passion-provocation manslaughter," the judges wrote.

This was the latest wrinkle in a case that has been unusual from the start.

The facts were particularly gripping, according to testimony at the November 2010 trial and the Jan. 31, 2012, sentencing.

Krystal Skinner, then 23, a Camden-Rutgers honors student, was desperately trying to leave Whye. In court, the prosecution played her 2006 taped interview with police, recounting Whye's threats. "You ain't leaving me if it's not in a casket," she said he vowed.

The jury heard a Lindenwold police officer testify that he entered the apartment, saw the boy with his dead mother, and carried him out in his arms.

For hours, he said, he stayed with the child, listening to the child screaming and spewing expletives as he made stabbing motions with a pen.

"Troy punched mom-mom's face," the boy told the officer.

Unusually, Whye, who has a 10th-grade education, represented himself during trial. "Mr. Whye is innocent," he told the jury, speaking in the third person as instructed.

As the case came to a close, Whye asked the judge to include a passion-provocation instruction to the jury. The prosecutor told the judge that there was a basis for it.

The judge didn't agree.

"Well, sir, the problem with this . . . is that basically you have to admit that you did the stabbing and say, I . . . snapped," Brown said, according to the transcript included in the decision.

"But if the defendant's position is that it was . . . some third party, then he wasn't there. So how is there any passion provocation?"

If Whye had been convicted of passion-provocation manslaughter, he would be facing 10 years in prison for the killing, not a life sentence.

Throughout the trial Whye had the assistance of a standby lawyer, Albert M. Afonso, a partner in Afonso, Baker & Archie in Cinnaminson.

"Ultimately he followed my advice in asking for the instruction but was unable on his feet to convince the trial judge," Afonso said Friday. "His lack of legal training in this instance has benefitted him in being granted a retrial."


Contact Jane Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing

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