Brown v. State, 2-881A283

Docket NºNo. 2-881A283
Citation446 N.E.2d 354
Case DateMarch 17, 1983
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Page 354

446 N.E.2d 354
Yesse Lee BROWN, Appellant (Defendant Below),
STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
No. 2-881A283.
Court of Appeals of Indiana,
Second District.
March 17, 1983.

Page 355

Christopher C. Zoeller, Indianapolis, for appellant.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Kathleen G. Lucas, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.


Defendant-Appellant Yesse Lee Brown (hereinafter referred to as "Brown") appeals his jury trial conviction of Involuntary Manslaughter, I.C. 35-42-1-4 (West Ann.Code 1978). Brown was sentenced to five years.

In view of our disposition, the sole issue addressed is whether the trial court committed reversible error by refusing the following jury instruction requested by Brown:

"During the trial of this cause the Defendant has not testified. You are not to speculate upon the Defendant's reasons for not testifying, nor in any manner utilize this fact in reaching your verdict."

The facts most favorable to the State disclose that on the afternoon of January 20, 1979, the victim, George Brown (hereinafter referred to as "George") was at the home of his sister, Betty Wallace, with his wife and two children. Brown, brother to both George and Betty Wallace, arrived at the house accompanied by his nephew, Steve Brown.

George was sitting in the dining room when Brown came up to him with his right hand in his pocket. Brown pointed his finger at George and said, "You owe me money, boy, and I want it." George said, "I don't want to hear it," stood up, and struck Brown with one open-handed blow.

Both Betty Wallace and Steve Brown, who were in the dining room, attempted to

Page 356

intervene as Brown and George wrestled. By the time Betty got around the table, Brown had stabbed George, although no one saw the actual stabbing. Betty grabbed Brown's arm, saw a knife, and screamed for Steve to recover the weapon. Steve grabbed Brown's arm, hit it against the wall, and took the knife. George fell into the kitchen, bleeding profusely. By the time emergency medical personnel arrived some minutes later, George had died as a result of the single stab wound in his lower left chest.

Although Brown did not testify at the trial, there was some testimony tending to show that George was the aggressor throughout the episode and that Brown had stabbed George in self-defense. George was more than a head taller than Brown and weighed more. In addition, Brown had recently suffered extensive burns to his left arm in an industrial accident, and movement in the arm was substantially restricted. Steve Brown testified that, after George slapped Brown, Brown just looked at George. George then grabbed Brown, pushed him into the kitchen over the stove, and hit Brown two more times with his open hand. Brown pushed George away from him into the doorway. Then Betty came around the table, got between them and pushed them both back. Brown took the knife from his pocket. As Steve tried to get around the table, George went toward Brown again. Brown stabbed George at that point.

After his conviction for involuntary manslaughter, Brown filed a timely motion to correct errors which was overruled. The praecipe for the record, however, was not timely filed. Nevertheless, we granted Brown permission to file a belated appeal pursuant to Ind.Rules of Procedure, Post-Conviction Remedies Rule 2(2).

Brown argues that the trial judge's refusal of his tendered jury instruction violated his fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The trial judge, in refusing the instruction, said: "We have mentioned that in our voir dire and our other instructions also." Record at 638.

In considering whether error results from refusal of a tendered instruction we must determine: (1) whether the tendered instruction correctly states the law, (2) whether there is evidence in the record to support it, and (3) whether the substance of the tendered instruction is covered by other instructions which are given. Davis v. State (1976), 265 Ind. 476, 355 N.E.2d 836.

Brown's position is well-taken. The recent United States Supreme Court decision in Carter v. Kentucky (1981) 450 U.S. 288, 101 S.Ct. 1112, 67 L.Ed.2d 241, requires the trial court to honor a request by a defendant for a cautionary instruction in order to comport with the defendant's fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination. In Carter the Court stated:

"In Bruno [v. United States, 60 S.Ct. 198], the Court declared that the failure to instruct as requested was not a mere 'technical erro[r] ... which do[es] not affect ... substantial rights....' It stated that the 'right of an accused to insist on' the privilege to remain silent is '[o]f a very different order of importance ...' from the 'mere etiquette of trials and ... the formalities and minutiae of procedure.' 308 U.S. , at 293-294, 60 S.Ct. , at 200 [84 L.Ed. 257]. Thus, while the Bruno Court relied on the authority of a federal statute, it is plain that its opinion was influenced by the absolute constitutional guarantee against compulsory self-incrimination.

[Griffin v. California (1965) 380 U.S. 609, 85 S.Ct. 1229, 14 L.Ed.2d 106] ... stands for the proposition that a defendant must pay no court-imposed price for the exercise of his constitutional privilege not to testify. The penalty was exacted in Griffin by adverse comment on the defendant's silence; the penalty may be just as severe when there is no adverse comment, but when the jury is left to roam at large with only its untutored instincts to guide it, to draw from the defendant's silence broad inferences of guilt. Even without adverse comment, the members of a jury, unless instructed otherwise, may well draw adverse inferences from a defendant's silence.


Page 357

A trial judge has a powerful tool at his disposal to protect the constitutional privilege--the jury instruction--and he has an affirmative constitutional obligation to use that tool when a defendant seeks its employment. No judge can prevent jurors from speculating about why a defendant stands mute in the face of a criminal accusation, but a judge can, and must, if requested to do so, use the unique power of the jury instruction to reduce that speculation to a minimum." 450 U.S. at 300-03, 101 S.Ct. at 1119-20 (footnotes omitted).

Significantly, the Court also noted:

"The other trial instructions and arguments of counsel that the petitioner's jurors heard at the trial of this case were no substitute for the explicit...

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2 cases
  • Alston v. State, 0156, September Term, 2005.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • October 3, 2007
    ...the oath serves as a safeguard of a criminal defendant's fundamental constitutional right to trial by an impartial jury. Steele, 446 N.E.2d at 354. In a similar vein, a Michigan court articulated: 934 A.2d 961 The oath is administered to insure that the jurors pay attention to the evidence,......
  • Hunter v. Clark, 89-2594
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 17, 1990
    ...when the error is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. See Parker v. State, 425 N.E.2d 628, 630 (Ind.1981). See also Brown v. State, 446 N.E.2d 354, 357 (Ind.App.1983). We agree with the federal and Indiana courts' resolution of this issue and conclude that failure to provide a "no adverse i......

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