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Jackson v. Balkcom

Supreme Court of Georgia
Feb 9, 1954
80 S.E.2d 319 (Ga. 1954)





Habeas corpus. Before Judge Cowart. Reidsville City Court. October 27, 1953.

Frank A. Dilworth, III, for plaintiff in error.

Eugene Cook, Attorney-General, J. T. Grice, Deputy Assistant Attorney-General, Robert Hall, Lamar Sizemore, Assistant Attorneys-General, contra.

Jurisdiction to try a person accused of a felony is vested by the Constitution of this State in the superior courts thereof. If any of the provisions of the Juvenile Court Act of 1951 (Ga. L. 1951, pp. 291-311, Code, Ann. Supp., Ch. 24-24) are intended to withhold this jurisdiction from the superior courts, such provisions can not be given any effect.


Willie Jackson, Jr., alias Marvin Jackson, brought his petition for habeas corpus, in which he alleged: The petitioner is being illegally restrained of his liberty by R. P. Balkcom, Jr., Warden of the Georgia State Prison in Tattnall County. The cause of his detention is an illegal conviction, for the offense of rape, in the Superior Court of Baldwin County. He was indicted on July 21, 1953, for rape upon the person of a white female, 18 years old. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be electrocuted August 28, 1953. His attorney dismissed a pending motion for new trial on the general grounds, and petitioned the State Board of Pardons and Paroles for commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment. On September 23, 1953, the plea for commutation was denied, and the petitioner was resentenced to be electrocuted on October 14, 1953. The petitioner was under the age of sixteen years at the time the alleged crime was committed, and was an inmate of the Georgia Training School for Boys at Milledgeville, having been committed to the training school by the Juvenile Court of Chatham County. The trial, conviction, and judgment of the Baldwin County Superior Court are illegal and void because that court had no jurisdiction over the petitioner, and proceeded in violation of the Juvenile Court Act (Ga. L. 1951, pp. 291-311), which gives the juvenile court original and exclusive jurisdiction concerning any child under seventeen years of age living or found within the county. The act further provides that, in all counties having a population of less than 50,000, the judge of the superior court shall sit as the juvenile-court judge and conduct all cases coming within the provisions of the act. The petitioner was tried and convicted in the Superior Court of Baldwin County without being certified from the juvenile court in accordance with section 11 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1951. The prayers were that the writ of habeas corpus issue, that the conviction and sentence under which the petitioner is held be declared illegal and void, and that the petitioner be committed to the court having proper jurisdiction.

The general demurrer of the respondent was sustained, the petition dismissed, and the petitioner remanded to the respondent. The exception is to this judgment.

The only contention made by the petitioner for habeas corpus in the present case as to the illegality of his trial and conviction in the Superior Court of Baldwin County for the offense of rape is that, under the provisions of the Juvenile Court Act of 1951 (Ga. L. 1951, pp. 291-311; Code, Ann. Supp., Ch. 24-24), the superior court was without jurisdiction to try his case.

In Hampton v. Stevenson, 210 Ga. 87 ( 78 S.E.2d 32), it was held that proceedings under the Juvenile Court Act of 1951 are civil and not criminal, and that such proceedings do not, therefore, violate the Constitution which provides, in article VI, section IV, paragraph I (Code, Ann., § 2-3901), that "The Superior Courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction . . . in criminal cases where the offender is subjected to loss of life, or confinement in the penitentiary."

While there is language in sections 9, 10, 11, and 19 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1951 which might indicate that it was the intention of the General Assembly to give original jurisdiction to the juvenile courts in all cases pertaining to criminal charges against persons less than seventeen years of age, there is nothing in the act which would have the effect of repealing Code § 26-301, which states the age of criminal responsibility to be "14 years, or before that age if such person know the distinction between good and evil." Jurisdiction to try persons charged with felonies, who are accountable under the law, is fixed by the Constitution to be in the superior courts. Constitution, art. VI, sec. IV, par. I (Code, Ann., § 2-3901).

This court is entirely in sympathy with the beneficent purposes of the Juvenile Court Act of 1951. However, we can only uphold the purposes of the act consistent with our Constitution. Should any of the provisions of the Juvenile Court Act of 1951 have been intended to withdraw the jurisdiction of the superior courts to try an offender, within the age of accountability under the law, for an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment, as contended by the petitioner, such provisions would be unconstitutional and could be given no effect. Law v. McCord, 143 Ga. 822 ( 85 S.E. 1025); Hicks v. State, 146 Ga. 706 ( 92 S.E. 216); Williams v. Davidson, 147 Ga. 491 ( 94 S.E. 564); Thomas v. State, 174 Ga. 654 ( 163 S.E. 734); Mills v. State, 56 Ga. App. 390 ( 192 S.E. 730).

The petition for habeas corpus showed no valid reason why the detention of the petitioner was illegal, and the trial court properly sustained the demurrer and remanded the petitioner to the respondent.

Judgment affirmed. All the Justices concur.

Summaries of

Jackson v. Balkcom

Supreme Court of Georgia
Feb 9, 1954
80 S.E.2d 319 (Ga. 1954)
Case details for

Jackson v. Balkcom

Case Details

Full title:JACKSON v. BALKCOM, Warden

Court:Supreme Court of Georgia

Date published: Feb 9, 1954


80 S.E.2d 319 (Ga. 1954)
80 S.E.2d 319

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