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State v. Perry

Supreme Court of North Carolina
Mar 1, 1936
184 S.E. 545 (N.C. 1936)

Opinion

(Filed 18 March, 1936.)

1. Homicide H c — Where evidence warrants a verdict of murder in the second degree, the question must be submitted to the jury.

It is only when all the evidence tends to show that the homicide was committed by means of poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, torture, or in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate a felony, that the court may instruct the jury to return a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree or not guilty, and where the evidence tends to show that defendant killed deceased with a deadly weapon and no evidence that the homicide was committed by lying in wait or in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate a felony, the court must submit the question of murder in the second degree to the jury, although there is ample evidence of premeditation and deliberation, the evidence of premeditation and deliberation being for the jury upon the question of whether the crime was murder in the first or second degree.

2. Homicide G b — Killing with deadly weapon raises presumption of second degree murder only.

A killing with a deadly weapon raises the presumption that the homicide was murder in the second degree, and if the State seeks a conviction of murder in the first degree it has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the homicide was committed with deliberation and premeditation.

APPEAL from Sinclair, J., at October Term, 1935, of HERTFORD. New trial.

Attorney-General Seawell and Assistant Attorney-General McMullan for the State.

C. W. Jones and J. H. Matthews for defendant, appellant.


CLARKSON, J., dissenting.


This is a criminal action wherein the defendant appeals from sentence of death based upon a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. Under the view we take of the case, it becomes necessary for us to consider only one group of the defendant's assignments of error, namely, those relating to the failure of the court to submit to the jury the issue of murder in the second degree.

The State offered evidence to the effect that the defendant made a confession in which he stated that he was with Joseph Terry late at night, and that Joseph Terry went into his house, out of sight of the defendant, and fired the fatal shot that killed the deceased. The State also offered in evidence the testimony of Joseph Terry to the effect that he and the defendant were out together at night and that the defendant told him (witness) that he (defendant) had shot and killed the deceased during an interval when they were separated. No eye-witness to the homicide was introduced. The evidence as to how the actual killing was accomplished is entirely circumstantial. While there was evidence of threats and of motive and of other facts and circumstances amply sufficient to take the case to the jury upon the issue of murder in the first degree, there was no evidence that the crime was committed by any of the means specifically mentioned in the statute defining the two degrees of murder or in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate a felony, as delineated in C. S., 4200.

The defendant offered no evidence.

The court charge the jury to return a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree or not guilty.

It is only in cases where all of the evidence tends to show that the homicide was committed by means of poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, torture, or in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate a felony, that the trial judge can instruct the jury that they must return a verdict of murder in the first degree or not guilty. In those cases where the evidence establishes that the killing was with a deadly weapon the presumption goes no further than that the homicide was murder in the second degree, and if the State seeks a conviction of murder in the first degree it has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the homicide was committed with deliberation and premeditation. Under such circumstances it is error for the trial judge to fail to submit to the jury the theory of murder in the second degree, since it is the province of the jury to determine if the homicide be murder in the first or in the second degree, that is, whether they, the jury, are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, from the evidence, that the homicide was committed with deliberation and premeditation. Whenever there is any evidence or when any inference can be fairly deduced therefrom tending to show a lower grade of murder, it is the duty of the trial judge, under appropriate instructions, to submit that view to the jury. The defendant is entitled to have the jury instructed to the effect that if they should find beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the murder, and should fail to find beyond a reasonable doubt that such murder was committed with deliberation and premeditation, they should return a verdict of guilty of murder in the second degree. S. v. Spivey, 151 N.C. 676; S. v. Newsome, 195 N.C. 552.

Under the authorities cited, we hold that the failure to submit to the jury the theory of murder in the second degree entitles the defendant to a new trial, and it is so ordered.

New trial.


Summaries of

State v. Perry

Supreme Court of North Carolina
Mar 1, 1936
184 S.E. 545 (N.C. 1936)
Case details for

State v. Perry

Case Details

Full title:STATE v. CHARLES PERRY

Court:Supreme Court of North Carolina

Date published: Mar 1, 1936

Citations

184 S.E. 545 (N.C. 1936)
184 S.E. 545

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