Hanna v. People

Decision Date26 October 1869
Citation19 Mich. 316
CourtMichigan Supreme Court
PartiesJohn Hanna v. The People
Heard October 20, 1869

Error to Kent Circuit.

The plaintiff in error was charged upon the information of the Prosecuting Attorney for Kent County, tat he "with a certain piece of iron, the same being a dangerous weapon which he, the said John Hanna, in his right hand then and there held, feloniously did beat, bruise and wound one John Shine, with intent, in so doing then and thereby feloniously willfully, and of his malice aforethought, to kill and murder the said John Shine, contrary, etc."

And "that the said John Hanna, and upon one John Shine, in the peace of God and of the People of the State of Michigan then and there being, did make an assault, and did beat choke, wound and strike him, the said John Shine, with intent, him, the said John Shine, then and there feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought, to kill and murder, contrary, etc." To which he pleaded not guilty.

Upon the trial, the counsel for the respondent requested the Circuit Judge to charge the jury: "That if they should find the said respondent not guilty of the offense charged in said information, they must acquit him;" which charge the Circuit Judge refused to give, and the counsel for the respondent excepted.

The Prosecuting Attorney requested the Circuit Judge to charge the jury: "That if they should find the said respondent not guilty of the offense charged in said information, they might find the said respondent guilty of assault and battery;" and the Circuit Judge so charged; to which charge the counsel of the said respondent excepted. The jury found--"Not guilty of assault with intent to kill, in manner and form as the People have in their information in this cause alleged, but guilty of assault and battery."

The defendant below brings the record into this Court and assigns for error:

First--The said Circuit Judge erred in refusing to instruct the said jury, that if they should find the said respondent not guilty of the offense charged in said information, they must acquit him.

Second--The said Circuit Judge erred in charging and instructing said jury, that if they should find the said respondent not guilty of the offense charged in said information, they might find the said respondent guilty of assault and battery.

Judgment of the Circuit Court affirmed.

H. E. Thompson, for plaintiff in error.

Dwight May, Attorney General, for defendant in error.

OPINION

Christiancy, J.

Plaintiff in error was tried in the Circuit Court for the County of Kent, upon an information charging him with assaulting and beating, with intent to murder, one John Shine.

The verdict of the jury was, not guilty of the assault with intent to kill, etc., but guilty of assault and battery.

The exceptions taken on the trial raise only the question, whether under this information (which is for an offense not a felony at common law, but made so by our statute), it was competent to find the defendant guilty of a simple assault and battery?

The general rule at common law was, that when an indictment charged an offense which included within it another less offense or one of a lower degree, the defendant, though acquitted of the higher offense, might be convicted of the less.

This rule, however, was subject to the qualification, that upon an indictment for a felony, the defendant could not be convicted of a misdemeanor.

The reason upon which this qualification rested in England, was, that upon a trial for a misdemeanor, he had certain advantages, such as the right to make a full defense by counsel, to have a copy of the indictment, and a special jury--rights not allowed when the charge was for a felony. (See 1 Bishop Cr. L. Sec. 814; 2 Hawk. P. C. Ch. 47, Sec. 6; 1 Chitty Cr. L. 251; id., 639.) These were substantial privileges affecting the fairness of the trial itself. But in all these respects, in everything which pertains to the fairness of the trial, the rights of the accused are as well protected in this country on the trial for a felony, as upon a trial for a misdemeanor, and in some cases better. And for this reason it has been held in several of the States (New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Arkansas; See 1 Bish. Cr. L. Sec. 815; 1 Whart. Am. Cr. L. Sec. 400 and cases cited), that the reason upon which this qualification of the rule rested having ceased, the qualification ceased with it.

Several other States (Massachussetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Tennessee), have abolished it by statute (See Whart. Am. Cr. Law, §§ 388, 400). And a like statute has been adopted in England, so far as relates to cases like the present,--attempts to commit a felony when the crime charged includes an assault. 1 Vict. Ch. 85, Sec. 11.

Whether our own statute applies to this case we shall presently inquire.

But it is insisted by the plaintiff in error that there are certain advantages secured by our statutes to a defendant indicted for a misdemeanor, which he does not possess when tried upon a charge of felony, and which, as he insists, furnish sufficient ground for adhering to the common law qualification of the general rule. The only advantages of this kind to which he refers are, first, the privilege, if the Court shall see fit to grant it, of appearing upon the trial by Attorney, without being himself personally present,--in other words, the privilege of being tried in his absence, in the discretion of the Court, which has not generally been considered a privilege of a very high order, though the right to be present on the trial is a very essential right. But the statute (Comp. L. Sec. 6,076), upon which the qualified privilege here claimed is based, so far as it has any effect, is certainly quite as much a privilege to the prosecution as to the defendant, and cannot be considered as essential to the fairness of the trial.

Secondly (the plaintiff urges), the privilege of making a compromise with the party injured, and upon his acknowledgment of satisfaction, of having the prosecution dismissed. But this is dependent, first, upon the...

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37 cases
  • People v. Nyx
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • July 18, 2007
    ...acquit of the principal charge, and find the prisoner guilty of an offense of lesser grade, if contained within it."16 Then, in 1869, in Hanna v. People17 this Court considered the similarly worded predecessor of MCL 768.32(1) and held that the statute should "be construed as extending to a......
  • People v. Cornell
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • June 18, 2002
    ...of any degree of such offense, inferior to that charged in the indictment, or of an attempt to commit such offense." [Hanna v. People, 19 Mich. 316, 320-321 (1869).] In Hanna, the defendant was charged with assault with intent to kill. An issue before the Court was whether the trial court e......
  • People v. McGhee
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • November 8, 2005
    ...v. Cornell, 466 Mich. 335, 357, 646 N.W.2d 127 (2002). In Cornell, supra at 353-354, 646 N.W.2d 127, our Supreme Court, citing Hanna v. People, 19 Mich. 316 (1869), noted that MCL 768.32(1), permitting conviction of a lesser degree of the offense charged, was not limited to those offenses t......
  • Rowland v. Washtenaw County Road Com'n
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • May 2, 2007
    ... ... judicial usurpation that runs counter to the bedrock principle of American constitutionalism, i.e., that the lawmaking power is reposed in the people as reflected in the work of the Legislature, and, absent a constitutional violation, the courts have no legitimacy in overruling or nullifying the ... Mich. 335, 646 N.W.2d Mich. 379, 236 N.W.2d failed to follow Hanna v. may find the accused ... 127 (2002) 461 (1975); People v. People, 19 Mich. 316 ... ...
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