Michael Jace Update: Actor To Begin Trial For Wife’s Murder

Two years after being charged with his wife’s murder, actor Michael Jace is scheduled to face trial in Los Angeles.

People reports that jury selection begins on Monday for the trial against Jace, 53, an actor arguably best-known for his role on the FX television show, The Shield. Jace is accused of shooting and killing his wife, April Jace, 40, on May 19, 2014, at their home in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The actor, who had several small roles in movies such as Boogie Nights, Forrest Gump, and Planet of the Apes, immediately called 911 after the shooting and turned himself over to authorities.

April Jace, a financial aid counselor at Biola University in La Mirada, California, was shot once in the back and shot once again while her young sons, ages 8 and 5, watched. The children were physically unharmed. Jace called his father-in-law and asked him to come pick up the children prior to calling 911.

The Los Angeles Times reports that data obtained from Alice Jace’s iPhone 5S will be the primary focus for the actor’s attorneys. Even though Jace never denied shooting his wife, his lawyers plan to argue that the incidents found on his wife’s phone will explain what happened that night and what caused him to snap.

There hasn’t been details surrounding the incident, but police indicated that the couple began arguing with each other via text messaging shortly before he shot her. Defense attorney Jamon Hicks is hoping to show the jury Jace’s state of mind when the shooting occurred.

“It isn’t a whodunit. It is a state of mind case.”

Jace filed bankruptcy in 2011, and recently fell behind on payments, shortly before the murder. It’s unclear whether financial difficulties played a part in the crime. A judge indicated, however, that April Jace’s alleged affair may possibly be brought up to the jurors, although the prosecution denied they wouldn’t mention it to the jury. The judge also informed the jury of Jace’s past as actor and that the case was made public shortly after the crime.

Neighbors described the family as friendly. They stated that Jace appeared to be a doting dad and that they never witnessed or heard any kind of trouble of domestic violence coming from the home. Jace has no previous domestic violence charges.

Jace, who’s been in jail since the shooting, pleaded not guilty. His attorneys will likely focus on the shooting being a crime of passion. Under California Law, a heat of passion crimes carries the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter and is typically used when a defendant kills another after a sudden argument or in the “heat of passion,” which affects their state of mind.

In order for Jace to qualify for a heat of passion crime, which can reduce a murder sentence to manslaughter, it must be proven that he was provoked prior the murder and as a result, acted in a rash manner that wasn’t premeditated and planned. The provocation must be significant enough to where a person with generally a normal disposition would snap.

The problem, however, is that although Jace has no previous record of domestic violence, documents from his divorce with former wife Jennifer Bitterman reveal that the actor had “an explosive temper.” According to Bitterman’s friend, Maria De La Vega, there was physical abuse in the home.

“Jordan was six months old. I was in the house and witnessed the first episode of physical abuse.”

De La Vega stated that Jace choked, hit, and slammed Bitterman against the wall while an infant boy screamed. Bitterman filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable difference. Although she petitioned for divorce in 1995, it wasn’t finalized until 2002.

If convicted, Michael Jace could face 50 years in prison.

[Photo by AP/Richard Shotwell/Invision]