Cooper v. State, 4 Div. 47

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtCOLEMAN; LIVINGSTON
Citation274 Ala. 683,151 So.2d 399
PartiesGussie COOPER et al. v. STATE of Alabama.
Docket Number4 Div. 47
Decision Date21 February 1963

Page 399

151 So.2d 399
274 Ala. 683
Gussie COOPER et al.
v.
STATE of Alabama.
4 Div. 47
Supreme Court of Alabama.
Feb. 21, 1963.
Rehearing Denied April 4, 1963.

[274 Ala. 684]

Page 400

Prestwood & Prestwood, Andalusia, for appellants.

Griffin Sikes, Andalusia, Special Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

[274 Ala. 685] COLEMAN, Justice.

This is an appeal by landowners from a judgment of the circuit court condemning certain lands, or interests therein, for right of way for a public road.

The proceeding was commenced in the probate court. From the judgment of condemnation rendered by the probate court, the landowners appealed to the circuit court.

On March 21, 1960, the circuit court proceeded to trial. In the circuit court, the landowners contested two issues: first, the right of the state to condemn; and, second, the amount of the award due to be paid by the state to the landowners.

The judgment of the circuit court recites that '* * * The Court proceeded to

Page 401

hear all of the evidence touching on the right of the State of Alabama to condemn the lands * * *.' and that upon consideration of the state's application and the evidence offered in support thereof the court granted the application to condemn.

The transcript of the evidence indicates that the issue of the right to condemn was tried first by the court. As we understand the record, the landowners, at this first hearing on March 21, 1960, were permitted to offer all testimony they wished to offer. The transcript indicates that, at the conclusion of this hearing, the court announced: 'The Court finds that the State has a right to condemn the property in question.'

The judgment appealed from shows further that on the same day, March 21, 1960, the court proceeded to trial before a jury of the amount of damages and compensation to be awarded to the landowners; and that, as the result of certain statements made in the presence and hearing of the jury, the court declared a mistrial and discharged the jury.

The judgment further shows that on April 11, 1960, the court again proceeded to trial before a jury of the amount of damages and compensation to be awarded to the landowners; that the jury returned a verdict fixing the award for lands of appellants at $2,000.00; and that the court rendered judgment on the verdict.

The transcript of evidence shows that on April 11, 1960, prior to commencement of trial before the jury to determine amount of the award, certain proceedings were had out of the jury's presence. The landowners were claiming the right to try again the issue of the state's right to condemn. The landowners sought to introduce testimony on the issue, but the court refused to permit landowners to do so. The court made the following statements:

'THE COURT: Let the record show that after the jury was empaneled and placed in the jury box that the Court and counsel for both sides adjourned to the Chambers and the Court has stated and now rules that on the previous trial that the mistrial which was entered by the Court was a mistrial as to the functions of the jury in determining proper compensation to be awarded to [274 Ala. 686] the land owners, and the Court holds that the proceedings before the Court to establish the right to condemn is severable from the duty of the jury to fix the award and compensation, and the Court now holds that we are ready to proceed with the matter and that it has already determined that the State of Alabama has the right to condemn in this particular case, and that the only issue now is to present to the jury and have them determine the amount of the award or compensation to be paid to the land owners in this case.

* * *

* * *

'THE COURT: Let the record also show that the defendants are being denied by the Court in (sic) any opportunity to offer further evidence touching on the right of the State to condemn the lands on this date, to which they duly and legally except.'

Right to Condemn.

The landowners argue that the court erred in ruling that the issue of the right to condemn had been determined on March 21, 1960, and in refusing, on April 11, 1960, to allow landowners to introduce evidence in opposition to the state's right to condemn. As we understand it, the landowners' reasons in support of this argument are comprehended in the following excerpts from their brief:

'The trial Court's position has cut a trial into two segments, one vitiated by a mistrial and the other untouched, unaffected. Our decisions require that the preliminary question of the right to condemn is to be decided outside the presence of the jury--but in the same trial. Nothing passes by mere implication in a condemnation suit; the statute

Page 402

must be followed. City of Birmingham v. Brown, Supra [241 Ala. 203, 2 So.2d 305]. * * *.

'* * * * * *

'* * *. A mistrial is no trial. Hallman v. State, Supra [36 Ala.App. 592, 61 So.2d 857; cert. den. 258 Ala. 278, 61 So.2d 861]. This would mean that the trial of March 21, 1960 was reduced to a nullity. The trial of April 11, 1960 is the trial with which we are concerned. It stands on its own record, in total independence of the trial of March 21, 1960. If a mistried case had any salvage value or was valid for any purpose then it would not be a nullity; it would have the attributes of what our statutes endowed it with. But our statutes breathe no aspect of survival in any part of a mistried case. Certainly a condemnation case, the taking of private property against the will of the owner, is not an appropriate patient for this fantastic surgery.' (Par. Added.)

We do not agree. This court has announced the following rule:

'We hold therefore, that upon appeal to the Circuit Court under section 7492, Code of 1923 [ § 17, Title 19, Code 1940], from an order of condemnation entered by the Probate Court, the interlocutory order granting the application to condemn is reviewable; and, further, that the petitioner's right to condemn shall be determined by the court without the aid of the jury, while the amount of damages or compensation to be assessed is a question exclusively for the jury. Mobile & Birmingham R. R. Co. v. Louisville & Nashville R. R. Co., supra [192 Ala. 136, 68 So. 905].' (Par. Added.) City of Birmingham v. Brown, 241 Ala. 203, 207, 2 So.2d 305, 308.

Appellants do not insist that the evidence was not sufficient to support the finding on March 21, 1960, that the state had a right to condemn this land. Appellants had been afforded one trial of the issue on the right to condemn. There was no mistrial on that issue. That issue is to be tried separately from the trial on the issue of the amount of the award. The mistrial on the latter issue did not vitiate the trial on the first issue. Even if it be conceded [274 Ala. 687] arguendo that the appellants be correct in asserting that the two issues must be tried in the 'same' trial, it does not follow...

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9 cases
  • Rhoads v. Virginia-Florida Corporation, 72-1130.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 29 Mayo 1973
    ...correct mean high water level (which, they claimed, was even further landward than McGill's survey showed it to be). 7 Cooper v. State, 274 Ala. 683, 151 So.2d 399 (1963). In a proceeding where precision and strict accuracy were relevant to establish a boundary, an authenticating witness te......
  • James v. Mizell, 8 Div. 444
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 3 Agosto 1972
    ...is not necessary that the authenticity of the plat be first established by the cartographer or author of the plat or map. Cooper v. State, 274 Ala. 683, 151 So.2d 399. No merit therefore attaches to assignment of error No. Affirmed. HEFLIN, C.J., and MERRILL, MADDOX and McCALL, JJ., concur. ...
  • Southern Natural Gas Co. v. Ross
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 8 Marzo 1973
    ...by the court without the aid of the jury. Housing Authority of City of Jasper v. Deason, 284 Ala. 431, 225 So.2d 838; Cooper v. State, 274 Ala. 683, 151 So.2d 399; Calhoun County v. Logan, 262 Ala. 586, 80 So.2d 529; City of Birmingham v. Brown, 241 Ala. 203, 2 So.2d Title 19, § 25, provide......
  • Housing Authority of City of Jasper v. Deason, 6 Div. 675
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 7 Agosto 1969
    ...of the jury. City of Birmingham v. Brown, 241 Ala. 203, 2 So.2d 305; Calhoun County v. Logan, 262 Ala. 586, 80 So.2d 529; Cooper v. State, 274 Ala. 683, 151 So.2d We have also held that a trial de novo means a new trial just as if no trial had ever been had, and just as if it had originated......
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