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Carter v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, In Banc
Mar 12, 1945
21 So. 2d 404 (Miss. 1945)

Summary

In Carter v. State, 198 Miss. 523, 21 So. 2d 404 (1945), the only issue in the appellate court concerned appellant's mental condition at the time of the crime, an issue not raised at trial.

Summary of this case from Chambers v. Mississippi

Opinion

No. 35773.

March 12, 1945.

1. CRIMINAL LAW.

The rule that questions not raised in trial court cannot be raised for first time on appeal is subject to exception in case of errors affecting fundamental rights of parties, or affecting public policy, and when to act on such questions would work no injustice to any party to appeal.

2. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW.

"Due process" prescribes as a fundamental right that no one shall be tried for commission of crime when he is mentally incapable of making a rational defense, that is, incapable of remembering and intelligently stating the facts on which his defense rests, regardless of whether mental condition is casual, temporary or permanent, and regardless of cause from which it results (Const. 1890, sec. 14).

3. CRIMINAL LAW.

When it appears to trial court that defendant is probably mentally incapable of making a rational defense, trial should not proceed further until defendant's mental condition has been investigated and it appears that he is sufficiently rational for purposes of defense (Const. 1890, sec. 14).

4. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW. Criminal law.

Where state's evidence was not clear as to who was aggressor in difficulty which resulted in killing, trial of defendant for murder when his mind was so clouded by disease or by drug administered to him by sheriff that he could not remember and intelligently relate what occurred at homicide was a denial of due process and contrary to public policy (Const. 1890, sec. 14).

APPEAL from the circuit court of Newton county, HON. PERCY M. LEE, Judge.

Jackson, Young Phillips, of Jackson, for appellant.

On or about June 11, 1944, it is alleged that Willie Carter, appellant, defendant in the lower court, shot and killed G.S. Worthen, Town Marshal of the town of Union, Mississippi. On August 14, 1944, being the regular August term, 1944, of the circuit court of Newton county, Mississippi, an indictment was returned charging Willie Carter with the murder of G.S. Worthen. Between August 14, 1944, and August 16, 1944, counsel was appointed by the court to defend Willie Carter, and the trial began on the morning of August 16, 1944, the trial being concluded on the same date. On August 16, 1944, when the judgment was entered, the same date of the trial, Willie Carter was sentenced to be excuted by electrocution on Friday, September 22, 1944. From the time of arraignment to the completion of the trial, all of which occurred in one day, the defendant was given no opportunity to confer with his family or friends, and indeed a reading of the record discloses that his mental condition was such, and continues to be such, that he could not confer with the attorneys appointed to defend him. There is not an adverse ruling by the court on any objections to evidence offered. All instructions requested by the state and by the defendant were given. There was no request for a directed verdict at the conclusion of the state's case. There was no request for a peremptory instruction at the conclusion of the entire case on behalf of the defendant through his counsel. The matter of the sanity or insanity of the defendant was not raised, except by implication and innuendo elicited by the district attorney, although it affirmatively appears that the defendant had been discharged from the United States Army because of epileptic fits and mental incapacity, and that the defendant had escaped after commitment to the Mississippi State Hospital for the Insane at Whitfield, Mississippi, and it appears from the record, especially the testimony of the defendant when he was placed on the stand, that the defendant did not realize or appreciate the fact that he was on trial for his life for the alleged killing of a white man in cold-blooded murder.

In none of the instructions for the state or for the defendant is the question of sanity vel non of the accused suggested as an issue for the jury to determine, either at the time of the commission of the crime or at the time of the trial.

The only proposition suggested by this record that can be submitted on behalf of the appellant is that there was a total failure on the part of the trial court to give to the defendant, appellant here, that due process and equal protection of the law required by Section 14 and Section 26, Constitution of 1890, and Article 14 and Article 5 of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

See Mitchell v. State, 179 Miss. 814, 176 So. 743, 121 A.L.R. 258; Richardson v. State, 196 Miss. 560, 17 So.2d 799, 800; Cunningham v. State, 56 Miss. 269, 275, 21 Am. Rep. 360; Keeton v. State, 175 Miss. 631, 167 So. 68; Davis v. State, 151 Miss. 883, 119 So. 805; Ford v. State, 73 Miss. 734, 19 So. 665; Dexter v. Hall, 15 Wall. 9, 21 L.Ed. 73, 79; Powell v. State of Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 53 S.Ct. 55, 77 L.Ed. 158, 84 A.L.R. 527; 14 Words and Phrases (Per. Ed.), p. 722.

Greek L. Rice, Attorney General, by R.O. Arrington, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

The state had a right and did rely upon the presumption of sanity in the absence of a plea of not guilty by plea of insanity.

Cunningham v. State, 56 Miss. 269, 275, 21 Am. Rep. 360.

Every man is presumed to be sane, and, in the absence of testimony engendering a reasonable doubt of sanity, no evidence on the subject need be offered; but whenever the question of sanity is raised and put in issue by such facts, proven on either side, as engender such doubt, it devolves upon the state to remove it, and to establish the sanity of the prisoner to the satisfaction of the jury, beyond all reasonable doubt arising out of all the evidence in the case.

See Temple v. State, 165 Miss. 798, 145 So. 749; Pullen v. State, 175 Miss. 810, 168 So. 69; Wood v. State, 197 Miss. 657, 20 So.2d 661; Cunningham v. State, supra.

If it had been suggested, or appeared to the court, that appellant might be insane, it was the duty of the court to inquire into and determine whether that was true or not, and, if true, to delay the trial until his sanity was regained. But there is nothing in the record that shows or tends to show that at that time appellant was insane, or that his main defense would be insanity at the time of the homicide.

Keeton v. State, 175 Miss. 631, 167 So. 68; Hawie v. State, 125 Miss. 589, 88 So. 167; Davis v. State, 151 Miss. 883, 119 So. 805.

If only temporary or recurrent insanity, as from paralysis or epilepsy, be shown, there is, in the nature of things, no presumption therefrom of continued, general, habitual insanity, and when all that the evidence in the case shows is this latter form — temporary insanity — without raising a reasonable doubt as to whether it existed at the time of the act in question, the state may rely on the presumption of general sanity with which it started out, without offering proof as to the lucid interval, for the presumption of sanity with which the defendant is invested at the outside is a general and universal one, embracing and including the presumption of sanity at all times, including the particular time when the act in question was committed, unless the evidence raises a reasonable doubt, not of temporary, but of general, insanity, and hence of insanity at the particular time.

Ford v. State, 73 Miss. 734, 19 So. 665; Ricketts v. Jolliff, 62 Miss. 440; Buswell on Insanity, Secs. 187, 188, 190-193, with authorities; 9 Am. Eng. Enc. L. 615.

The law requires the court to appoint an attorney to defend in all capital cases when otherwise the defendant would have no attorney, and the acts of the attorney so appointed are binding on the defendant as the acts of the defendant's agent when the acts are within the scope of the attorney's legitimate duties, whether the defendant be sane or insane, and an attorney employed by the defendant or his relatives and accepted by the court occupies a position of no less importance.

Mitchell v. State, 179 Miss. 814, 176 So. 743; Simmons v. State, 197 Miss. 326, 20 So.2d 64.

The appointment of the two attorneys as evidenced by the record fully meets the requirements set out in the case of Powell v. State of Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 53 S.Ct. 55, 77 L.Ed. 158, 84 A.L.R. 527.

Compare Snyder v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 54 S.Ct. 330, 78 L.Ed. 674, 90 A.L.R. 575.

Argued orally by Forrest B. Jackson, for appellant, and by R.O. Arrington, for appellee.


The appellant was convicted of murder and given the death sentence. Two members of the Bar, by appointment, defended him in the court below; but other counsel have presented his appeal to this Court. The only question presented here is the failure of the court below to inquire into whether the appellant's mental condition was such as to warrant his being then tried for the commission of the offense with which he was charged. This question was not raised at the trial, and is presented in this Court for the first time.

The rule that questions not raised in the trial court cannot be raised for the first time on appeal, is not without exceptions, among which are errors "affecting fundamental rights of the parties . . . or affecting public policy," 4 C.J.S., Appeal and Error, Sec. 242, if to act on which will work no injustice to any party to the appeal. Burke v. Shaw, 59 Miss. 443, 42 Am. Rep. 370; Gabbert v. Wallace, 66 Miss. 618, 5 So. 394; Wilson v. Alabama G.S.R. Co., 77 Miss. 714, 28 So. 567, 52 L.R.A. 357, 78 Am. St. Rep. 543; McLemore v. Anderson, 92 Miss. 42, 43 So. 878, 47 So. 801; State v. Woodruff, 170 Miss. 744, 150 So. 760.

One of the most fundamental and humane requirements of the common law, enshrined in the due process of law provision of our Constitution, is that no one shall be tried for the commission of a crime when he is mentally incapable of making a rational defense, i.e., incapable of remembering and intelligently stating the facts on which his defense rests. This mental condition may be casual, temporary or permanent, and may result from any cause. When it is made to appear in the trial court that the mentality of a defendant in a criminal case is probably of this character, his trial should not be proceeded with until that question has been investigated, and it has been made to appear that he is sufficiently rational for the purposes of his defense. That this be done is not only a fundamental right of the defendant, but is also required by the state's public policy, as expressed in Sec. 14 of its Constitution, which prohibits the depriving of any person "of life, liberty, or property except by due process of law." The evidence discloses, without conflict, that the defendant was an epileptic; and that a short time before the commission of the homicide with which he is charged he was confined in the State Insane Hospital, which he left without permission. He was seriously wounded by the person who was killed, but recovered. He was arrested immediately after the homicide, carried to a hospital, and from there to the Hinds County jail in Jackson, and was there detained until brought to Newton for trial. He had been drafted and inducted into the army, and remained there a short time; and was honorably discharged therefrom, but for what reason does not appear.

During the trial the appellant appeared to be sleepy or drowsy; and in the testimony of the sheriff, who was introduced by the State, the following appears:

"Q. You see him now. I don't know why he does it, whether he is just posing. Is that his usual demeanor? A. No, sir, the doctor says those tablets taken in excess will produce a condition similar to drunkenness and he told us that they had been giving him too many over there in Jackson and instructed us to cut them down to three a day, and he says it produces this sleepiness or drowsiness.

"Q. Have you given him any today? A. I gave him one this morning.

"Q. Is that the way he acts when you give them to him? A. Well that is the condition he was when I brought him over here and they told us at that time what was the matter, that he thought he had taken too many of those pills.

"Q. How many were they giving him? A. Well they didn't say, but they said cut them down to three a day.

"Q. You gave him one today? A. He had one this morning.

"Q. What time? A. Around eight o'clock.

"Q. It is now about eleven? A. Yes, sir."

"That is all."

The appellant was the only witness in his own behalf, and from his testimony it clearly appears that he was then mentally incapable of remembering and intelligently stating the facts on which his defense rested. It is not clear from the evidence for the state, or at least the jury could have so found, as to who was the aggressor in the difficulty which resulted in this homicide. The appellant and the deceased both fired with pistols almost at the same time; which fired first, and for what reason, does not clearly appear; or, at least, the jury could have so found. This being true, it was of the utmost importance to the appellant that his mind should not be so clouded by disease or the drug administered to him by the sheriff, as not to permit him to remember and intelligently state what occurred at the homicide.

It remains only to say that this is a direct appeal from a judgment of conviction, and not from a proceeding begun to set aside a conviction after it had become final, as were the appeals in the cases relied on by the appellee. Consequently they are not controlling here.

Reversed and remanded.


Summaries of

Carter v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, In Banc
Mar 12, 1945
21 So. 2d 404 (Miss. 1945)

In Carter v. State, 198 Miss. 523, 21 So. 2d 404 (1945), the only issue in the appellate court concerned appellant's mental condition at the time of the crime, an issue not raised at trial.

Summary of this case from Chambers v. Mississippi
Case details for

Carter v. State

Case Details

Full title:CARTER v. STATE

Court:Supreme Court of Mississippi, In Banc

Date published: Mar 12, 1945

Citations

21 So. 2d 404 (Miss. 1945)
21 So. 2d 404

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