Sticky Metaphors and the Persistence of the Traditional Voluntary Manslaughter Doctrine

This Article begins with a curious puzzle: Why has the traditional voluntary manslaughter doctrine in criminal law-the so-called “heat of passion” defense to a charge of murder-proven so resistant to change, even in the face of more than a half-century of seemingly compelling empirical and normative arguments in favor of doctrinal reform? What could possibly account for the traditional doctrine’s surprising resilience? In this Article, we propose a solution to this puzzle. The Article introduces a new conceptual theory about metaphor-the “sticky metaphor” theory-that highlights an important aspect of metaphorical language and metaphorical thought that has been almost completely overlooked in the existing literature of law, psychology, and linguistics. We believe the “sticky metaphor” theory may turn out to be highly significant to both the voluntary manslaughter doctrine in particular and the law in general.