Filed 18 January 1973
1. Constitutional Law 36; Criminal Law 135 — death penalty — discretion of jury — unconstitutionality Under the decision of Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, the death sentence may not be inflicted if either judge or jury is permitted to impose that sentence as a matter of discretion.
2. Constitutional Law 36; Criminal Law 120, 135; Rape 7 — rape — jury discretion to recommend life imprisonment — unconstitutionality — mandatory death sentence The decision of Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, invalidated the proviso of G.S. 14-21 giving the jury the discretion to recommend and thus fix the punishment for rape at life imprisonment; however, the invalid proviso is severable from the remainder of the statute, leaving death as the mandatory punishment for rape in North Carolina.
3. Criminal Law 120, 135 — capital case — instructions to jury — mandatory death sentence Upon the trial of any defendant charged with rape, murder in the first degree, arson or burglary in the first degree, the trial court may not instruct the jury that it may in its discretion add to its verdict of guilty a recommendation that defendant be sentenced to life imprisonment, but the court should charge on the constituent elements of the offense set out in the bill of indictment and instruct the jury under what circumstances a verdict of guilty or not guilty should be returned; upon the return of a verdict of guilty of any such offense, the court must pronounce a sentence of death. G.S. 14-17; G.S. 14-21; G.S. 14-52; G.S. 14-58.
4. Constitutional Law 35 — ex post facto clause — applicability to judiciary — increase in punishment While the letter of the ex post facto clause is addressed to legislative action, the constitutional ban against the retroactive increase of punishment for crime applies as well against judicial action having the same effect.
5. Constitutional Law 35; Criminal Law 135 — mandatory death penalty — prospective effect of decision Since a judicial decision in effect changing the penalty for rape or other capital crimes from death or life imprisonment in the discretion of the jury to mandatory death would be ex post facto as to such offenses committed prior to the change, North Carolina's mandatory death penalty for rape, murder in the first degree, burglary in the first degree and arson may not be constitutionally applied to any offense committed prior to 18 January 1973, the date of this decision. Art. I, 16, N.C. Constitution; Art. I, 10, U.S. Constitution.
DEFENDANT appeals from judgment of Blount, J., December 1971 Session, SAMPSON Superior Court.
David J. Turlington, Jr., Attorney for defendant appellant.
Robert Morgan, Attorney General, and Jean A. Benoy, Deputy Attorney General, for the State of North Carolina.
Justice LAKE concurring.
Chief Justice BOBBITT concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Justice HIGGINS concurring in result.
Justice SHARP concurring in the opinion of Chief Justice BOBBITT.
Defendant was tried on a bill of indictment, proper in form, charging him with the rape of Mrs. Thelma Jackson on the 8th day of June 1971.
The State's evidence tends to show that when Mrs. Thelma Jackson returned from work about 6 p.m. on 8 June 1971 she unlocked the back door and entered her home. She found a black man standing behind a chair in her living room. He had a stocking over his face and a butcher knife in his pocket. He placed Mrs. Jackson in a chair, tied her hands together with a small cord, and told her he would kill her if she made a noise. Then, using the same cord, he tied her ankles together. She screamed when a neighbor passed on a tractor, and he placed the knife to her neck and threatened to cut her throat.
The intruder then placed Mrs. Jackson on the couch, sat beside her, and said: "I know all about you. I know your husband has been dead about four and a half or five years and you never had any children and you live alone and I know about you." After several minutes of conversation with Mrs. Jackson, he pulled her up from the couch and walked her to the bedroom. This operation took about ten minutes since her feet were still tied. He sat her down in a reclining chair in the bedroom, unzipped her dress in the back, untied her hands, and stripped all her clothing down to the waist. He then tied her hands again, untied her feet and completely undressed her. He then stuffed a large roll of cotton in her mouth but removed it when it appeared she was unable to breathe. He ripped a pillowcase into strips, tying one strip over her mouth and blindfolding her with another. He then placed her on the bed and raped her.
While Mrs. Jackson was still blindfolded, her assailant removed her from the bed, put her clothing back on her, bound her legs together again, and sat her in a chair. He then moved about the house, apparently gathering foodstuffs and other items. In response to Mrs. Jackson's inquiry after he had made several trips to the kitchen, he stated he was doing "what I have to do." He finally left about 7:30 p.m., having been in Mrs. Jackson's presence about an hour and a half, the last thirty minutes of which she was blindfolded. She had observed and talked with him for one hour while he was in her home.
Mrs. Jackson was bleeding badly from her privates and needed medical attention. She eventually worked her hands free, removed her blindfold, untied her feet, and sought help at the home of a black family who lived across the road. Deputy Sheriff Chase arrived within ten minutes after being called.
Items missing from Mrs. Jackson's home included an old pair of Knapp shoes belonging to her deceased husband (S-3), a small teaspoon (S-10), and a roll of adhesive tape. When apprehended, defendant was wearing the shoes and had the spoon and a roll of Johnson Johnson Adhesive Tape in a little leather case. At the preliminary hearing and in court at the trial, Mrs. Jackson stated that she recognized defendant by his build, "his looks and all of it," and said she would recognize his voice if she ever heard it again. She positively identified defendant as the man who raped her.
After interviewing Mrs. Jackson the night of the rape, officers began an investigation of the crime scene, checking for fingerprints and footprints. Fingerprints were lifted from the windowsill where defendant had entered the house, from the front of the medicine cabinet mirror in the kitchen of the Jackson residence, from the first drawer of the chest of drawers in Mrs. Jackson's bedroom where defendant had obtained the pillowcases he ripped up, from inside the medicine cabinet door, and from a kitchen cabinet. All these fingerprints were later compared by an expert with ink impressions of defendant's fingerprints and in the opinion of the expert were identical.
A set of footprints led from Mrs. Jackson's home to a point in the woods at the base of a pine tree about one hundred fifty yards away where the officers found a pile of articles, including a lady's stocking, a piece of cord, an empty pear can, a pair of brown gloves, a pair of lady's panties and two pieces of a torn pillowcase. Many of these items were identified as having come from Mrs. Jackson's home.
While officers were searching for Mrs. Jackson's assailant, Bruce Jackson, a former highway patrolman, saw defendant in the woods eight to ten miles from Mrs. Jackson's home. Although many officers were in the area searching, Bruce Jackson was alone at the time. He spoke to defendant who said his name was Jackson; that he worked for the Town of Dunn and "they had sent him down there to help capture that man that had messed that white woman about." When asked for some identification, defendant grabbed Bruce Jackson's shotgun and the two men tussled over it for ten or fifteen minutes. Defendant kept repeating, "I am the one that you are looking for] but you ain't going to tell anybody because I am going to kill you right here and now." During the tussle Mr. Jackson succeeded in firing the shotgun and thus attracted the attention of other officers in the woods. They converged on the scene and took defendant into custody.
Defendant offered no evidence. At the close of the State's evidence his motion for judgment of nonsuit was denied. The jury returned a verdict of guilty of rape as charged in the bill of indictment. Defendant's motion to set the verdict aside was denied and defendant was sentenced to death. He appealed to the Supreme Court assigning as error the denial of his motions and further contending that the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
We overrule defendant's assignments of error based on denial of his motions for nonsuit and to set aside the verdict. The evidence is overwhelmingly sufficient to carry the case to the jury and to support the verdict. Likewise, defendant's third assignment addressed to the charge has no merit and cannot be sustained. The court's charge on circumstantial evidence is free from prejudicial error. We therefore put aside these assignments without discussion and go directly to the constitutional question raised by defendant and argued in the briefs.
Defendant contends that the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty was held in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 33 L.Ed.2d 346, 92 S.Ct 2726 (1972), to constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The State, on the other hand, disputes defendant's interpretation of the holding in Furman and argues that the death sentence was lawfully and constitutionally imposed in this case and should be carried out. These antagonistic positions require an analysis of the Furman decision.
Furman v. Georgia was consolidated with Jackson v. Georgia and Branch v. Texas for decision. Each defendant was black. Furman killed a Georgia householder while seeking to enter the home at night. Jackson entered a Georgia home after the husband left for work, held scissors against the neck of the wife and raped her. Branch entered the Texas home of a 65-year-old widow, a white woman, while she slept and raped her, holding his arm against her throat. Furman was convicted of murder, Jackson and Branch of rape, and each was sentenced to death after a trial by jury which, under applicable Georgia and Texas statutes, had discretionary authority to determine whether to impose the death penalty. On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment in each case insofar as it left undisturbed the death sentence imposed, and the cases were remanded for further proceedings. In an opinion expressing the views of five members of the Court, it was held that the imposition and carrying out of the death sentence in the three cases before the Court constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Four members of the Court dissented, voting to sustain the constitutionality of the statutes under which defendants were tried and sentence of death imposed.
Prior to the decision in Furman v. Georgia, supra, the United States Supreme Court implicitly approved or, albeit in dictum, expressly upheld the constitutionality of capital punishment in many cases, including Wilkerson v. Utah, 99 U.S. 130, 25 L.Ed. 345 (1879); In re Kemmler, 136 U.S. 436, 34 L.Ed. 519, 10 S.Ct. 930 (1890); Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349, 54 L.Ed. 793, 30 S.Ct. 544 (1910); Louisiana ex rel. Francis v. Resweber, 329 U.S. 459, 91 L.Ed. 422, 67 S.Ct. 374 (1947); Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 2 L.Ed.2d 630, 78 S.Ct. 590 (1958); Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 20 L.Ed.2d 776, 88 S.Ct. 1770 (1968); McGautha v. California, 402 U.S. 183, 28 L.Ed.2d 711, 91 S.Ct. 1454 (1971). Thus, since the ratification of the Eighth Amendment one hundred eighty-one years ago, no decision of the United States Supreme Court prior to Furman casts the slightest doubt on the constitutionality of capital punishment. Therefore, since the decision in Furman is not grounded on prior decisions of the Court, the scope of that holding must be gleaned from the separate opinions of the Justices themselves.
The nine opinions focus upon the Eighth Amendment which provides: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." The proscription of cruel and unusual punishments is applicable to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Powell v. Texas, 392 U.S. 514, 20 L.Ed.2d 1254, 88 S.Ct. 2145 (1968); Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, 8 L.Ed.2d 758, 82 S.Ct. 1417 (1962).
We note at the outset that only two members of the Court, Mr. Justice Brennan and Mr. Justice Marshall, concluded that capital punishment for all crimes under all circumstances is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Mr. Justice Brennan summarized his views in these words:
"At bottom, then, the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause prohibits the infliction of uncivilized and inhuman punishment. . . . The test, then, will ordinarily be a cumulative one: If a punishment is unusually severe, if there is a strong probability that it is inflicted arbitrarily, if it is substantially rejected by contemporary society, and if there is no reason to believe that it serves any penal purpose more effectively than some less severe punishment, then the continued infliction of that punishment violates the command of the Clause that the State may not inflict inhuman and uncivilized punishments upon those convicted of crimes. . . . Under these principles and this test, death is today a `cruel and unusual' punishment."
Mr. Justice Marshall reached a like conclusion when he wrote:
"There is but one conclusion that can be drawn from all of this — i.e., the death penalty is an excessive and unnecessary punishment which violates the Eighth Amendment. . . . In addition, even if capital punishment is not excessive, it nonetheless violates the Eighth Amendment because it is morally unacceptable to the people of the United States at this time in their history."
Thus, it may be seen that these two Justices joined in the Furman decision on the basis that capital punishment is per se unconstitutional.
Mr. Justice Douglas rested his concurrence on a different basis. He wrote:
"In these three cases the death penalty was imposed, one of them for murder, and two for rape. In each the determination of whether the penalty should be death or a lighter punishment was left by the State to the discretion of the judge or of the jury. In each of the three cases the trial was to a jury. [Emphasis added] . . . In a nation committed to Equal Protection of the laws there is no permissible `caste' aspect of law enforcement. Yet we know that the discretion of judges and juries in imposing the death penalty enables the penalty to be selectively applied, feeding prejudices against the accused if he is poor and despised, poor and lacking political clout, or if he is a member of a suspect or unpopular minority, and saving those who by social position may be in a more protected position. . . . Thus, these discretionary statutes are unconstitutional in their operation. They are pregnant with discrimination. . . . Any law which is nondiscriminatory on its face may be applied in such a way as to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356. Such conceivably might be the fate of a mandatory death penalty, where equal or lesser sentences were imposed on the elite, a harsher one on the minorities or members of the lower castes. Whether a mandatory death penalty would otherwise be constitutional is a question I do not reach." (Emphasis added.)
It seems clear that Mr. Justice Douglas left open the question of the constitutionality of a mandatory death penalty and voted to invalidate the death sentence in Furman and companion cases on the ground that the trial jury was given statutory discretion as to whether a defendant convicted of rape or murder should be sentenced to death or to life imprisonment.
Mr. Justice Stewart joined the majority opinion on similar grounds: That under the Georgia and Texas statutes, the death penalty was not mandatory for murder and rape but could be imposed in the unfettered discretion of trial juries, and that the exercise of this discretion resulted in "freakish" selection of those who should be executed for their crimes. He expressed his views as follows:
"[A]t least two of my Brothers have concluded that the infliction of the death penalty is constitutionally impermissible in all circumstances under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Their case is a strong one. But I find it unnecessary to reach the ultimate question they would decide. [Emphasis added] . . . The constitutionality of capital punishment in the abstract is not, however, before us in these cases. For the Georgia and Texas Legislatures have not provided that the death penalty shall be imposed upon all those who are found guilty of forcible rape. And the Georgia Legislature has not ordained that death shall be the automatic punishment for murder. . . . These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual. For, of all the people convicted of rapes and murders in 1967 and 1968, many just as reprehensible as these, the petitioners are among a capriciously selected random handful upon whom the sentence of death has in fact been imposed. . . . I simply conclude that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments cannot tolerate the infliction of a sentence of death under legal systems that permit this unique penalty to be so wantonly and so freakishly imposed."
Mr. Justice White concurred in the majority opinion for reasons substantially similar to those of Justice Stewart. The following language from his concurring opinion depicts his views:
"In joining the Court's judgments, therefore, I do not at all intimate that the death penalty is unconstitutional per se or that there is no system of capital punishment that would comport with the Eighth Amendment. . . . I cannot avoid the conclusion that as the statutes before us are now administered, the penalty is so infrequently imposed that the threat of execution is too attenuated to be of substantial service to criminal justice. . . . That conclusion, as I have said, is that the death penalty is exacted with great infrequency even for the most atrocious crimes and that there is no meaningful basis for distinguishing the few cases in which it is imposed from the many cases in which it is not. The short of it is that the policy of vesting sentencing authority primarily in juries . . . has so effectively achieved its aims that capital punishment within the confines of the statutes now before us has for all practical purposes run its course."
Four members of the Court dissented and voted to uphold the constitutionality of the Georgia and Texas statutes under which Furman, Jackson and Branch were tried and sentenced to death. The position of the four dissenters is best summed up by Chief Justice Burger as follows:
"There are no obvious indications that capital punishment offends the conscience of society to such a degree that our traditional deference to the legislative judgment must be abandoned. . . . Capital punishment is authorized by statute in 40 States, the District of Columbia and in the federal courts for the commission of certain crimes. On four occasions in the last eleven years Congress has added to the list of federal crimes punishable by death. In looking for reliable indicia of contemporary attitude, none more trustworthy has been advanced. . . . Today the Court has not ruled that capital punishment is per se violative of the Eighth Amendment; nor has it ruled that the punishment is barred for any particular class or classes of crimes. The substantially similar concurring opinions of Mr. Justice Stewart and Mr. Justice White, which are necessary to support the judgment setting aside petitioners' sentences, stop short of reaching the ultimate question. . . . The critical factor in the concurring opinions of both Mr. Justice Stewart and Mr. Justice White is the infrequency with which the penalty is imposed. This factor is taken not as evidence of society's abhorrence of capital punishment . . . but as the earmark of a deteriorated system of sentencing. It is concluded that petitioners' sentences must he set aside, not because the punishment is impermissibly cruel, but because juries and judges have failed to exercise their sentencing discretion in acceptable fashion."
The foregoing quotations from the various separate opinions in Furman compel the conclusion that capital punishment has not been declared unconstitutional per se. Rather, the Furman decision holds that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments will no longer tolerate the infliction of the death sentence if either judge or jury is permitted to impose that sentence as a matter of discretion.
We now consider the effect of the Furman decision on G.S. 14-21 which reads as follows:
"Every person who is convicted of ravishing and carnally knowing any female of the age of twelve years or more by force and against her will, or who is convicted of unlawfully and carnally knowing and abusing any female child under the age of twelve years, shall suffer death: Provided, if the jury shall so recommend at the time of rendering its verdict in open court, the punishment shall be imprisonment for life in the State's prison, and the court shall so instruct the jury." (Emphasis added)
Does Furman invalidate G.S. 14-21 in its entirety or invalidate only the discretionary proviso, leaving death as the mandatory punishment for rape in North Carolina? A look at history is necessary to put the question in proper perspective.
Blackstone's Commentaries tell us:
"Rape was punished by the Saxon laws . . . with death . . . . But this was afterwards thought too hard: and in its stead another severe, but not capital, punishment was inflicted by William the conqueror; viz, castration and loss of eyes; which continued till after Bracton wrote, in the reign of Henry the third. * * *
"In the 3 Edw. I.  by the statute Westm. 1. c. 13. the punishment of rape was much mitigated: the offence itself being reduced to a trespass, if not prosecuted by the woman within forty days, and subjecting the offender only to two years imprisonment, and a fine at the king's will. But, this lenity being productive of the most terrible consequences, it was in ten years afterwards, 13 Edw. I. found necessary to make the offence of rape felony, by statute Westm. 2. c. 34. And by statute 18 Eliz. c. 7. it is made felony without benefit of clergy. . . ." 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries, 211-2 (1st ed. 1769).
In 1778, the State of North Carolina enacted what is now G.S. 4-1 which states:
"All such parts of the common law as were heretofore in force and use within this State, or so much of the common law as is not destructive of, or repugnant to, or inconsistent with, the freedom and independence of this State and the form of government therein established, and which has not been otherwise provided for in whole or in part, not abrogated, repealed, or become obsolete, are hereby declared to be in full force within this State."
By this statute the common law death penalty for rape was adopted in North Carolina. This punishment was codified in Vol. 1, c. 34, 5 of the 1837 Revised Statutes of North Carolina.
In 1869, the General Assembly of North Carolina reenacted the punishment for rape in the following language:
"Every person who is convicted, in due course of law, of ravishing and carnally knowing any female of the age of ten years or more by force and against her will; or who is convicted, in like manner, of unlawfully and carnally knowing and abusing any female child under the age of ten years, shall suffer death." Public Laws of 1868-69, c. 167, 2.
An amendment in 1917 raised the age of consent from ten to twelve years. See Public Laws 1917, c. 29.
Thus, death has been the punishment for rape in North Carolina for almost two hundred years. Our present statute on the subject, G.S. 14-21, was amended in 1949 by adding the proviso which (1) empowers the jury in its discretion to recommend and thus to fix the punishment at life imprisonment, and (2) requires the trial judge to so instruct the jury. Session Laws of 1949, c. 299, 4.
Since the 1949 amendment adding the proviso, seventeen bills or resolutions have been introduced in the General Assembly of North Carolina designed to abolish or limit the imposition of the death penalty for rape or other capital offenses. See House Bills 924, 925, 927 and 928 in the 1955 Session; House Bill 113 in the 1961 Session; House Bill 35, Senate Bill 27 and Senate Resolution 173 in the 1963 Session; House Bills 103 and 351 in the 1965 Session; House Bills 68, 71, 138 and 314 in the 1967 Session; House Bill 160 in the 1969 Session; and House Bill 397 and Senate Bill 251 in the 1971 Session. All of these bills and resolutions failed to receive a favorable report from the committee to which referred, or were tabled or defeated on the floor of the House in which introduced.
The new State Constitution, which was ratified by the people in the general election of 1970, retained the provision contained in the former Constitution of North Carolina authorizing the General Assembly to provide by statute for the imposition of the death penalty for murder, arson, burglary and rape. See Constitution of North Carolina, Article XI, Section 2. Thus, there is nothing in the legislative or constitutional history of this State to indicate an intent by the Legislature, or by the people, to reduce the punishment for rape from death to life imprisonment, or to indicate that the 1949 proviso was enacted for that purpose except upon the discretionary recommendation of the jury, or to indicate that such proviso would have been enacted at all had its unconstitutionality been foreseen by the 1949 General Assembly. Rather, such history demonstrates a constant intent by the people and their representatives to retain the death penalty for murder, arson, burglary and rape notwithstanding the proviso added in 1949.
It is the proviso, and the proviso alone, which creates the discretionary difficulty condemned by the Furman decision; and it is quite clear that Furman strikes down the proviso as violative of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The question then arises: Does the remainder of G.S. 14-21 stand alone with death as the mandatory punishment for rape? Or, is the proviso such a constituent and inherent part of a single statutory scheme of punishment that it is inseverable and the entire statute must fall?
In 16 Am. Jur.2d, Constitutional Law, 186, the rule of severability is thus stated:
"If the objectionable parts of a statute are severable from the rest in such a way that the legislature would be presumed to have enacted the valid portion without the invalid, the failure of the latter will not necessarily render the entire statute invalid, but the statute may be enforced as to those portions of it which are constitutional. If, however, the constitutional and the unconstitutional portions are so dependent on each other as to warrant the belief that the legislature intended them to take effect in their entirety, it follows that if the whole cannot be carried into effect, it will be presumed that the legislature would not have passed the residue independently, and accordingly, the entire statute is invalid."
The original portion of G.S. 14-21 with its mandatory death penalty for rape stood alone and was given full effect by the courts of this State for a century prior to the enactment of the 1949 proviso. Grammatically, as well as historically, the two portions of the statute are distinct and separate and the constitutional invalidity of the added portion will not destroy the part which was in existence prior to the enactment of the unconstitutional portion.
"Usually, when an amendatory exception to a statute proves unconstitutional, the original statute stands wholly unaffected by it." 16 Am. Jur.2d, Constitutional Law, 184. "When exceptions, exemptions, or provisos in a statute are found to be invalid, the entire act may be void on the theory that by striking out the invalid exception the act has been widened in its scope and therefore cannot properly represent the legislative intent. This result is not reached, however, when the repugnant exception was added by way of amendment, as it may be said that the Legislature did intend, at least originally, to pass the act without offering the exception." (Emphasis added) Sutherland, Statutes and Statutory Construction, 2412 (3d ed. 1943).
In Frost v. Corporation Commission, 278 U.S. 515, 73 L.Ed. 483, 49 S.Ct. 235 (1929), the United States Supreme Court dealt with an Oklahoma statute which, as originally enacted, required a certificate of public convenience and necessity in order to engage in the business of operating a cotton gin. The statute was thereafter amended to insert a proviso exempting gins operated by cooperatives. The Court held the proviso violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment but upheld the statute as initially written, saying:
"Here it is conceded that the statute, before the amendment, was entirely valid. When passed, it expressed the will of the legislature which enacted it. Without an express repeal, a different legislature undertook to create an exception, but, since that body sought to express its will by an amendment which, being unconstitutional, is a nullity and, therefore, powerless to work any change in the existing statute, that statute must stand as the only valid expression of the legislative intent." (Emphasis added)
In United States v. Jackson, 390 U.S. 570, 20 L.Ed.2d 138, 88 S.Ct. 1209 (1968), the Supreme Court of the United States held invalid a proviso in the Federal Kidnapping Act ( 18 U.S.C. § 1201 (a)) providing for the death sentence upon conviction of kidnapping under certain circumstances if the jury so recommended in its verdict. Originally, the statute made the crime punishable by imprisonment only. The Court held that the remainder of the statute was valid since the unconstitutional proviso was severable from it, saying:
"As we said in Champlin Rfg. Co. v. Commission, 286 U.S. 210, 234: `The unconstitutionality of a part of an Act does not necessarily defeat . . . the validity of its remaining provisions. Unless it is evident that the legislature would not have enacted those provisions which are within its power, independently of that which is not, the invalid part may be dropped if what is left is fully operative as a law.'
"Under this test, it is clear that the clause authorizing capital punishment is severable from the remainder of the kidnapping statute and that the unconstitutionality of that clause does not require the defeat of the law as a whole."
The fact that the proviso in G.S. 14-21 gives the jury the discretion to recommend life imprisonment rather than death does not distinguish the case before us from United States v. Jackson, supra.
In Bank v. Lacy, 188 N.C. 25, 123 S.E. 475 (1924), this Court said: "The invalidity of one part of a statute does not nullify the remainder when the parts are separable and the invalid part was not the consideration or inducement for the Legislature to enact the part that is valid." To like effect: Jackson v. Board of Adjustment, 275 N.C. 155, 166 S.E.2d 78 (1969); Clark v. Meyland, 261 N.C. 140, 134 S.E.2d 168 (1964); Fox v. Commissioners of Durham, 244 N.C. 497, 94 S.E.2d 482 (1956); Power Co. v. Clay County, 213 N.C. 698, 197 S.E. 603 (1938); Connolly v. Union Sewer Pipe Co., 184 U.S. 540, 46 L.Ed. 679, 22 S.Ct. 431 (1902).
It is the proviso which confers upon juries the discretion to send one defendant to death and another to prison for life for the same crime committed under substantially similar circumstances. This, and only this, is what Furman condemns as violative of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The proviso, then, can no longer be given effect as part of the law of North Carolina. This leaves in effect the original statute making the death sentence mandatory upon a conviction of rape, and forbids an instruction to the jury that it may, in its discretion, fix a different punishment.
In light of the authorities cited, we hold that the unconstitutional proviso in G.S. 14-21 is severable and the remainder of the statute with death as the mandatory punishment for rape remains in full force and effect. A similar conclusion was reached by the Supreme Court of Delaware in State v. Dickerson, ___ Del. ___, ___ A.2d ___, 12 Cr. L. 2145 (decided 1 November 1972).
We recognize that the Legislature, not the courts, decides public policy, responds to public opinion and, by legislative enactment, reflects society's standards. The matter of retention, modification or abolition of the death penalty is a question for the law-making authorities rather than the courts. In view of the decision in Furman, the Legislature may wish to delete the unconstitutional proviso from G.S. 14-21 (rape), G.S. 14-17 (murder), G.S. 14-52 (burglary), and G.S. 14-58 (arson); or it may wish to rewrite these statutes altogether to give expression to what it conceives to be the public will. Meanwhile, we hold that the effect of the Furman decision upon the law of North Carolina concerning the punishment for rape, murder in the first degree, arson and burglary in the first degree is this: Upon the trial of any defendant so charged, the trial judge may not instruct the jury that it may in its discretion add to its verdict of guilty a recommendation that defendant be sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial judge should charge on the constituent elements of the offense set out in the bill of indictment and instruct the jury under what circumstances a verdict of guilty or not guilty should be returned. Upon the return of a verdict of guilty of any such offense, the court must pronounce a sentence of death. The punishment to be imposed for these capital felonies is no longer a discretionary question for the jury and therefore no longer a proper subject for an instruction by the judge.
Since the invalid proviso in G.S. 14-21 was given effect from the time it was enacted in 1949 to the date of the Furman decision in all cases wherein the defendant was convicted of rape or other capital crimes under the statutes applicable thereto, the practical effect of a judicial determination that the proviso is severable and therefore eliminated from the statute is to change the penalty for rape (or other capital crimes) from death or life imprisonment in the discretion of the jury to mandatory death. An upward change of penalty by legislative action cannot constitutionally be applied retroactively. Article I, section 16 of the Constitution of North Carolina forbids the enactment of any ex post facto law. The Federal Constitution contains a like prohibition against ex post facto enactments by a state. See Constitution of the United States, Art. I, sec. 10. It has been held that this section of the Constitution "forbids the application of any new punitive measure to a crime already consummated, to the detriment or material disadvantage of the wrongdoer. * * * It hardly could be thought that, if a punishment for murder of life imprisonment or death were changed to death alone, the latter penalty could be applied to homicide committed before the change." Lindsey v. Washington, 301 U.S. 397, 81 L.Ed. 1182, 57 S.Ct. 797 (1937). It thus appears that where the punishment at the time of the offense was death or life imprisonment in the discretion of the jury, as in the case before us, a change by the Legislature to death alone would be ex post facto as to such offenses committed prior to the change. State v. Broadway, 157 N.C. 598, 72 S.E. 987 (1911).
While we recognize that the letter of the ex post facto clause is addressed to legislative action, the constitutional ban against the retroactive increase of punishment for a crime applies as well against judicial action having the same effect. "[A]n unforeseeable judicial enlargement of a criminal statute, applied retroactively, operates precisely like an ex post facto law, such as Art. I, 10, of the Constitution forbids. An ex post facto law has been defined by this Court as one `that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action' or `that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed.' [Citation omitted] If a state legislature is barred by the Ex Post Facto Clause from passing such a law, it must follow that a State Supreme Court is barred by the Due Process Clause from achieving precisely the same result by judicial construction." Bouie v. Columbia, 378 U.S. 347, 12 L.Ed.2d 894, 84 S.Ct. 1697 (1964).
For the reasons stated, we hold that North Carolina's mandatory death penalty for rape, murder in the first degree, burglary in the first degree and arson may not be constitutionally applied to any offense committed prior to the date of this decision but shall be applied to any offense committed after such date. Compare, Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 16 L.Ed.2d 882, 86 S.Ct. 1772 (1966).
We now turn to the task of applying the Furman decision, and the holding here, to the death sentence imposed upon defendant in this case.
Defendant was tried, convicted and sentenced under G.S. 14-21, and the trial judge instructed the jury, inter alia, as follows: "If you return a verdict of guilty of rape, you may accompany your verdict with a recommendation of life imprisonment. If you make no such recommendation, the law provides that the defendant will be put to death in the gas chamber. If you do so recommend, the punishment will be imprisonment for life. You are completely free to accompany a verdict of guilty with a recommendation of life imprisonment or not, as the law leaves that to your complete and unbridled discretion. Thus members of the jury, depending on how you find the facts, there are three possible verdicts which you may return, you may find the defendant guilty of rape with no recommendation; guilty of rape with a recommendation of life imprisonment or not guilty." Thus, the jury was permitted to exercise its discretion and choose between death and life imprisonment. The proviso in G.S. 14-21 requiring the judge to so charge and permitting the jury in its discretion to so choose is not materially different from the discretion vested in the jury by the Georgia and Texas statutes condemned by Furman. It is apparent, therefore, that Furman forbids the imposition of the death penalty in this case. This conclusion is buttressed by the fact that, following the decision in Furman, five cases in which we had affirmed the imposition of the death sentence were remanded to this Court by the Supreme Court of the United States "for further proceedings," the judgment of this Court having been vacated "insofar as it leaves undisturbed the death penalty imposed." We remanded those cases to the respective superior courts for imposition of sentences of life imprisonment. State v. Miller, 281 N.C. 740, 190 S.E.2d 841 (1972); State v. Hamby and Chandler, 281 N.C. 743, 191 S.E.2d 66 (1972); State v. Chance, 281 N.C. 746, 191 S.E.2d 65 (1972); State v. Westbrook, 281 N.C. 748, 191 S.E.2d 68 (1972); State v. Doss, 281 N.C. 751, 191 S.E.2d 70 (1972).
Accordingly, the judgment of the Superior Court of Sampson County insofar as it imposed the death penalty upon this defendant is reversed. The case is remanded to the Superior Court of Sampson County with directions to proceed as follows:
1. The presiding judge of the Superior Court of Sampson County will cause to be served on the defendant, James Howard Waddell, and on his counsel of record, notice to appear during a session of said Superior Court at a designated time, not less than ten days from the date of the notice, at which time, in open court, the defendant, James Howard Waddell, being present in person and being represented by his counsel, the presiding judge, based on the verdict of guilty of rape returned by the jury at the trial of this case at the December 1971 Session, will pronounce judgment that the defendant, James Howard Waddell, be imprisoned for life in the State's prison.
2. The presiding judge of the Superior Court of Sampson County will issue a writ of habeas corpus to the official having custody of the defendant, James Howard Waddell, to produce him in open court at the time and for the purpose of being present when the judgment imposing life imprisonment is pronounced.
REMANDED FOR JUDGMENT.