119 So.2d 691 (Fla. 1959), Hoyt v. State

Citation:119 So.2d 691
Opinion Judge:Author: Drew
Party Name:Gwendolyn HOYT, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Attorney:C.J. Hardee, Jr., of Hardee & Ott and Carl C. Durrance, Tampa, for appellant.
Case Date:December 02, 1959
Court:Supreme Court of Florida

Page 691

119 So.2d 691 (Fla. 1959)

Gwendolyn HOYT, Appellant,

v.

STATE of Florida, Appellee.

Supreme Court of Florida.

December 2, 1959

Rehearing Denied April 20, 1960.

Page 692

C. J. Hardee, Jr., of Hardee & Ott and Carl C. Durrance, Tampa, for appellant.

Richard W. Ervin, Atty. Gen., and George R. Georgieff, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

DREW, Justice.

Gwendolyn Hoyt was indicted for second-degree murder of her husband Clarence Hoyt. She pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of temporary insanity, was tried and a verdict of guilty as charged was rendered by the jury.

The homicide occurred at the parties' home when appellant, after prolonged marital discord and alleged infidelities, called her husband from his military station in

Page 693

another city by a false report of injury to their young son. She was unable to salvage their relationship by any means, and when she was so informed by the deceased in a final and unequivocal fashion at the unfortunate moment when she was disposing of a damaged baseball bat, the fatal blows were struck. Immediate medical attendance could not repair the extensive head injuries which resulted in death the following day. Appellant gave a full account of events, which are not materially in dispute, indictment and trial followed in due course, and this appeal ensued.

By challenge to the all-male jury panel the appellant raised an issue as to the validity or constitutionality of F.S. Section 40.01(1), F.S.A., 1 insofar as it provides that, while jurors are to be taken from male and female electors, 'the name of no female person shall be taken for jury service unless said person has registered with the clerk of the circuit court her desire to be placed on the jury list.' The validity of the statute was sustained by the trial court. Jurisdiction of this Court is invoked to review that judgment as one 'directly passing upon the validity of a state statute * * * or construing a controlling provision of the Florida or Federal Constitution. 2 /p> The record reflects that the list of names from which the venire was chosen did contain some names of women who had registered for jury service, and that the number so included was proportionately at least a fair representation of the total number of eligible women registered for jury service. The complaint, therefore, is that the law itself, by imposing upon women a burden (voluntary registration) not imposed upon men as a requirement for being called to jury service, operates to deprive the defendant of the 'impartial jury' required by Section 11, Declaration of Rights, Florida Constitution, or of 'equal protection of the laws' guaranteed by Amendment XIV, United States Constitution.

Neither contention can be sustained. Courts, under laws making women eligible for jury service, have condemned the exclusion of eligible women from a jury by arbitrary administrative action, noting in this respect that their exclusion 'may indeed make the jury less representative of the community than would be true if an economic or racial group were excluded.' 3 We find no instance, however, where a court has overruled a legislative determination, or declared invalid a constitutional provision, that women as a class should be subject to different treatment or regulations, such as those here involved, with respect to jury service. The prohibition is against the enactment or application of laws to single out a class for different treatment 'not based on some reasonable classification' or basis. 4 All such decisions recognize the fact that 'circumstances or chance may well dictate that no persons in a certain class will serve on a particular jury or during some particular period,' and that a defendant's only right is to be 'tried by juries from which all members of his

Page 694

class are not systematically excluded'--a right to juries fairly selected from among all qualified or eligible persons. 5 /p> None of the later opinions either expressly or impliedly abandons the early pronouncement that within certain limits the law may prescribe qualifications for jurors 'and in so doing make discriminations. It may confine the selection to males, to freeholders, to citizens, to persons within certain ages, or to persons having educational qualifications.' 6 Provisions for absolute ineligibility or general exclusion of women from jury service were, of course, the universal rule in the past, grounded historically, we believe, upon the inconsistency of such demands with their role in society. 7 /p> From the established precedent that women as a class may be excluded altogether from this particular civic labor without depriving a defendant of any constitutional rights, it logically follows that a rule or regulation of their service is not objectionable merely because it may incidentally operate to limit the proportion of women on juries. Even if it be conceded that an impartial jury, or due process of law, includes the concept of a 'representative' jury, one is entitled under all the cited cases only to attack provisions which limit unfairly, or without a reasonable basis, his opportunity to obtain such a jury. The statute under consideration does not, in our opinion, make such an arbitrary classification or discrimination.

The same functional rationale mentioned in connection with the former exclusionary rule will sustain a statutory rule, such as our present law, 8 against compulsory service after removal of eligibility barriers. Whatever changes may have taken place in the political or economic status of women in our society, nothing has yet altered the fact of their primary responsibility, as a class, for the daily welfare of the family unit upon which our civilization depends. The statute, in effect, simply recognizes that the traditional exclusion was based not upon inherent disability or incapacity but upon the premise that such demands might place an unwarranted strain upon the social and domestic structure, or result in unwilling participation by those whose conflicting duties, while not amounting to actual hardship, might yet be expected, as a general rule, to affect the quality of their service as jurors. The law vests in the individuals concerned, as those best qualified to judge, the right to decide without compulsion whether such service could be rendered without risk of impairment in their more vital role. There is an obvious distinction between such a legislative classification or rule of privilege and the case of a blanket administrative exclusion of an eligible class for supposed hardship. 9 /p> With respect to other objections to the manner in which the jury list was complied, appellant has failed to show that the requirements of F.S. Chapter 40, F.S.A., were violated in any way. That law contains no positive mandates that selections be made in any particular proportions, and the evidence does not indicate anything resembling a systematic exclusion of eligible registered female electors. Likewise the statute clearly contemplates the use of clerical assistance in the preparation of the list and does not require more than the personal supervision and review exercised by the commissioners in this case. 10 /p> Page 695

The assertion is made that the procedure followed in compilation of the jury list amounted to unlawful delegation of the commissioner's discretionary powers and violated certain principles referred to in our decisions. First, 'they cannot by subsequently ratifying a selection made by some other person render the selection valid.' 11 An investigation of the decisions upon which this text statement is based fails to reveal any case in which a court has disapproved the typing of names by an employee from specified registration lists at the direction of the commissioners, in the circumstances of this case. 12 The evil against which the rule is obviously directed is the choice of names by any 'other person' in the character of a volunteer or one having even a potential interest in the procedure. The transcription of names from a specified register under direction of law or order of the commissioners does not, upon any rational theory, amount to 'selection' by the transcriber or clerk, but rather the selection is in fact made by the officials directing the procedure and approving the list compiled. Similarly, their action is 'in concert' if the certification of the list and the procedure by which it is produced is the result of their combined and cooperative efforts, as opposed to a list 'drawn by some of county commissioners in [total] disregard of counsel and advice of others.' 13 Certainly the decision first above cited to the effect that a challenge may be based upon participation by parties, other than clerical assistants, who are alleged to be prejudiced to defendant and taking an active part in the prosecution of the cause, is not inconsistent with the conclusion reached in this case.

The appellant further contends that the court erred in denying motion for directed verdict of acquittal upon the medical testimony as to insanity; and in refusing to find upon the evidence that the charge should as a matter of law be reduced to manslaughter. On these issues it will suffice to say that a jury question was, under former decisions of this Court, plainly presented. 14 There was no conflict in respect to appellant's medical history, reflecting affliction with epilepsy from an early age. But, while medical experts were not in full accord on all points, there was ample testimony from which a jury could find that there existed no disabling malfunction at the time of the homicide under the established rules for determination of criminal responsibility. 15 /p> Among the other points urged by appellant are objections to comments by court and counsel in the course of trial before the jury; objections to latitude permitted in cross examination of appellant; and alleged error in...

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