194 S.E.2d 19 (N.C. 1973), 5, State v. Waddell

Docket Nº:5.
Citation:194 S.E.2d 19, 282 N.C. 431
Party Name:STATE of North Carolina v. James Howard WADDELL.
Case Date:January 18, 1973
Court:Supreme Court of North Carolina

Page 19

194 S.E.2d 19 (N.C. 1973)

282 N.C. 431

STATE of North Carolina

v.

James Howard WADDELL.

No. 5.

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

January 18, 1973

Page 20

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 21

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 22

David J. Turlington, Jr., Clinton, for defendant appellant.

Robert Morgan, Atty. Gen., and Jean A. Benoy, Deputy Atty. Gen., Raleigh, for State of North Carolina.

HUSKINS, Justice:

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, 92 S.Ct. 2726, 33 L.Ed.2d 346, (1972), to constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The State, on the other hand, disputes [282 N.C. 435] 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 Taxas 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

Page 23

Wilkerson v. Utah, 99 U.S. 130, 25 L.Ed. 345 (1879); In Re Kemmler, 136 U.S. 436, 10 S.Ct. 930, 34 L.Ed. 519 (1890); Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349, 30 S.Ct. 544, 54 L.Ed. 793 (1910); Louisiana ex rel. Francis v. Resweber, 329 U.S. 459, 67 S.Ct. 374, 91 L.Ed. 422 (1947); Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 78 S.Ct. 590, 2 L.Ed.2d 630 (1958); Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20 L.Ed.2d 776 (1968); McGautha v. California, 402 U.S. 183, 91 S.Ct. 1454, 28 L.Ed.2d 711 (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 [282 N.C. 436] 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, 88 S.Ct. 2145, 20 L.Ed.2d 1254 (1968); Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, 82 S.Ct. 1417, 8 L.Ed.2d 758 (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 punishments. . . . 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 Justice joined in the Furman decision on the basis that capital punishment is Per se unconstitutional.

[282 N.C. 437] 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. . . .

Page 24

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, 6 S.Ct. 1064, 30 L.Ed. 220. Such conceivable 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[282 N.C. 438] 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 concluded 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...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP
95 practice notes
  • 194 S.E.2d 800 (N.C. 1973), 3, State v. Watkins
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 14 Marzo 1973
    ...or life imprisonment. Thus a death sentence imposed under G.S. § 14--17 as then constituted cannot be carried out. See State v. Waddell, 282 N.C. 431, 194 S.E.2d 19 (1973). Prior to Furman, the status of the death penalty under G.S. § 14--17 was uncertain. However, defendant knew that G.S. ......
  • 210 S.E.2d 407 (N.C. 1974), 88, State v. Ward
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 30 Diciembre 1974
    ...homicide involved herein having been committed in July 1973, that is, in the period between 18 January 1973, the date State v. Waddell, 282 N.C. 431, 194 S.E.2d 19, was decided, and 8 April 1974, the date N.C. Sess.Laws, Ch. 1201 (1973), which rewrote G.S. § 14--21, became effective.error. ......
  • 213 S.E.2d 214 (N.C. 1975), 13, State v. Woods
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 14 Abril 1975
    ...803 (1974); State v. Dillard, 285 N.C. 72, 203 S.E.2d 6 (1974); State v. Crowder, 285 N.C. 42, 203 S.E.2d 38 (1974); State v. Waddell, 282 N.C. 431, 194 S.E.2d 19 (1973). Because of the imposition of the death sentence, we have carefully examined the entire record in this case and each assi......
  • 213 S.E.2d 255 (N.C. 1975), 36, State v. Lowery
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 14 Abril 1975
    ...6 (1974); State v. Crowder, 285 N.C. 42, 203 S.E.2d 38 (1974); State v. Jarrette, 284 N.C. 625, 202 S.E.2d 721 (1974); State v. Waddell, 282 N.C. 431, 194 S.E.2d 19 (1973). We adhere to our decisions in those cases. It is noted that the court's charge was not brought forward in the record. ......
  • Free signup to view additional results
95 cases
  • 194 S.E.2d 800 (N.C. 1973), 3, State v. Watkins
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 14 Marzo 1973
    ...or life imprisonment. Thus a death sentence imposed under G.S. § 14--17 as then constituted cannot be carried out. See State v. Waddell, 282 N.C. 431, 194 S.E.2d 19 (1973). Prior to Furman, the status of the death penalty under G.S. § 14--17 was uncertain. However, defendant knew that G.S. ......
  • 210 S.E.2d 407 (N.C. 1974), 88, State v. Ward
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 30 Diciembre 1974
    ...homicide involved herein having been committed in July 1973, that is, in the period between 18 January 1973, the date State v. Waddell, 282 N.C. 431, 194 S.E.2d 19, was decided, and 8 April 1974, the date N.C. Sess.Laws, Ch. 1201 (1973), which rewrote G.S. § 14--21, became effective.error. ......
  • 213 S.E.2d 214 (N.C. 1975), 13, State v. Woods
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 14 Abril 1975
    ...803 (1974); State v. Dillard, 285 N.C. 72, 203 S.E.2d 6 (1974); State v. Crowder, 285 N.C. 42, 203 S.E.2d 38 (1974); State v. Waddell, 282 N.C. 431, 194 S.E.2d 19 (1973). Because of the imposition of the death sentence, we have carefully examined the entire record in this case and each assi......
  • 213 S.E.2d 255 (N.C. 1975), 36, State v. Lowery
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 14 Abril 1975
    ...6 (1974); State v. Crowder, 285 N.C. 42, 203 S.E.2d 38 (1974); State v. Jarrette, 284 N.C. 625, 202 S.E.2d 721 (1974); State v. Waddell, 282 N.C. 431, 194 S.E.2d 19 (1973). We adhere to our decisions in those cases. It is noted that the court's charge was not brought forward in the record. ......
  • Free signup to view additional results