Helms v. State, 6 Div. 980

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Citation47 So.2d 276,254 Ala. 14
Docket Number6 Div. 980
PartiesHELMS v. STATE.
Decision Date22 June 1950

John W. Brown and H. G. Bailey, of Boaz, for appellant.

A. A. Carmichael, Atty. Gen., and L.E. Barton, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.

The following charges were refussed to defendant:

'18. The court charges the jury that the only foundation for a verdict of guilty in this case is that the entire jury shall believe from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty, that this defendant is guilty as charged in the indictment, to the exclusion of every probability of his innocence and every reasonable doubt of his guilt, and if the prosecution has failed to furnish such measure of proof, and to so impress the minds of the jury of his guilt, they should find him not guilty.

'53. The court charges the jury that where circumstantial evidence consists of a number of connected and interdependent facts and circumstances, it is like a chain which is no stronger than its weakest link; if any link is missing or broken the continuity of the chain is destroyed and its strength wholly fails.'

LAWSON, Justice.

The appellant, Marvin Helms, was indicted for the murder of his wife, Pearl Helms. Upon his trial he was convicted of murder in the first degree and was sentenced to the penitentiary for life. This appeal is prosecuted by him for the purpose of reversing the judgment of conviction.

It is insisted by appellant that the evidence is not sufficient to support a conviction of any degree of homicide. If this is true, the court was in error in refusing to give the affirmative charges as requested by appellant, defendant below, and in overruling the grounds of his motion for new trial which take the point that the verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence. Blue v. State, 246 Ala. 73, 19 So.2d 11.

The defendant and the deceased lived on a farm approximately four miles west of Johnson's Crossing, a community in Cullman County. The deceased was the second wife of defendant. They had been married for approximately three years. The defendant was the father of nine children by his first wife, one of whom, Ollie Helms, was married to the daughter of George Twilley, who lived a short distance from the home of the defendant.

Ollie Helms and his wife lived in 'town,' presumably Cullman. They came to the home of George Twilley to spend the 1949 Fourth of July week-end.

On Sunday morning, July 3, 1949, George Twilley and Ollie Helms walked to the home of the defendant. They drank whisky and beer with the defendant and the deceased and remained for dinner, which the deceased prepared. Some time after dinner, the four of them drove to Johnson's Crossing in the defendant's automobile, which he drove. At this point the deceased, Mrs. Helms, appeared to be more intoxicated than any of the men. After making some purchases at Hamilton's store, the party proceeded in the general direction of their homes. They stopped at the home of Jim Crawford. None of them got out of the car, but Mr. Crawford joined them, or some of them, in drinking whisky. From the Crawford home they proceeded to the home of George Twilley. The deceased, Pearl Helms, did not get out of the car when they arrived at the Twilley farm. The men did get out of the automobile and proceeded to the barn and hog pen, where more whisky was consumed.

George Twilley, a witness for the State, testified in effect that while the men were at the hog pen the defendant called his wife twice and, receiving no answer, said to Twilley, 'If she has run off and left me, I will kill the _____ of a _____.'

The deceased was not in the automobile when the men returned to it. She was not seen around the Twilley farm. According to State witnesses, the defendant, upon finding his wife gone, said, 'Just let her go to hell.'

Evidence for the defendant is to the effect that he made no such statements.

The witness Twilley also testified that during the course of the afternoon he heard the deceased curse the defendant.

The defendant left the Twilley home in his automobile alone between 6:30 and 7:00 p. m. He had proceeded only a short distance in the general direction of his home when his automobile went into a ditch on the left-hand side of the road. His son, Ollie, and George Twilley went to his assistance, but they were unable to get the automobile back into the road. Ollie secured the assistance of William Crawford, who used his truck in getting defendant's car back into the road.

When Ollie and Crawford arrived with the truck, the defendant was lying on the ditch bank in an intoxicated condition. He did not speak to Crawford, but did make inquiry as to the whereabouts of his wife. Ollie assisted his father into the automobile and then drove him home. They arrived there after dark at about 7:30 p. m. There was no light on in the residence. Ollie used the flashlight which he obtained from the glove compartment of his father's automobile. He helped his father into the house and then put him in bed without removing his clothes or shoes. Ollie placed the flashlight on the radio table which was near the bed. He did not see his stepmother in the house. Neither he nor his father made any effort to ascertain whether she had come home. Ollie then returned to the home of his father-in-law, George Twilley, where he spent the night.

Between 6:00 and 6:30 on Monday morning, July 4, 1949, the defendant walked from his home to that of George Twilley, and informed Twilley and Ollie that his wife, Pearl, had been killed and requested that the 'law' be notified and an ambulance called.

Sheriff Hyatt, two of his deputies, the coroner and others arrived at the home of defendant between eight and nine o'clock on the morning of July 4, 1949.

They found the body of Mrs. Pearl Helms lying face up on the floor of a small outbuilding situated approximately 95 feet northeast of the residence.

The outbuilding seems to have been used principally for the purpose of storing commercial fertilizer and farm equipment. There was an iron bed in the building which had been placed there some time previously for the use of defendant's son, Ollie. This bed, however, had been used occasionally by both the defendant and the deceased, and in one instance they slept there together. According to defendant, the deceased slept there alone only on occasions when the radio in the dwelling disturbed her. However, there was evidence for the State tending to show that the defendant sometimes slept in the outbuilding after a 'row' with the deceased.

The legs of the deceased from her knees down to her feet were under the bed. Her body from the waist up was unclothed. There were bruises, cuts and abrasions all over the body of deceased, from her head to her feet. Her head was cut all the way to the skull, but the skull was not fractured. No bones were broken. There were imprints of teeth all over her breasts and on other parts of her body. Blood was in her hair. Her face was mashed in and her lower lip nearly cut off.

The cause of death was fixed at stock and loss of blood from the numerous wounds on her body.

The condition of the building indicated a terrific struggle. Blood was 'spattered' over the floor and high up on the walls of the building. Blood and long dark hair, of the color and texture of the hair of deceased, was all over the bedclothes and on the footrail of the bed. There were a number of little particles that appeared to be human flesh on the bedposts.

There was no indication of blood in the yard between the small outbuilding and the main residence.

The defendant was present when the investigating officers arrived at his home and he answered all questions propounded to him without reluctance. He denied any connection with the death of his wife. He did not appear to be excited to a great extent, but was nervous. He appeared to be sober, although there were indications that he was suffering from the after-effects of excessive drinking. He had on clean clothes. Without voicing any objection, he permitted the officers and members of the coroner's jury to examine his body for scratches and bruises. There are tendencies of the evidence which show that there were 'fresh' scratches and bruises on his face and arms and one eye was black. However, there is evidence from witnesses for both the State and the defendant that the condition of his eye was the same as it was prior to the time of the death of his wife. There was evidence of the fact that the knuckles of his right hand were swollen. His hands appeared to have dried blood on them.

The officers made a thorough search of the main residence of the defendant. They found evidence of blood on the bedclothes of a bed which appeared to have been slept in the previous night. Under the bedclothes was a flashlight, upon which was found blood smears. Without protest from the defendant, they were permitted to examine a plastic belt which he was wearing, his billfold, and his shoes. There was a substance on each of these articles which appeared to be blood. At the request of the officers, the defendant gave them the key to a trunk which was located in the bedroom of the main residence. Upon opening the trunk, they found a pistol which had evidence of blood on it. Under the house a part of a hoe was found which had blood and human hair on it. The officers also found indications of blood on doorknobs and door handles in the main house.

The defendant was taken to jail some time between one and two o'clock. After arriving at the jail the defendant again denied any connection with the death of his wife. He permitted the sheriff to scrape his fingernails.

The articles which appeared to have blood on them and the fingernail scrapings were all forwarded to the State Toxicologist, who testified to the effect that blood was found on all of them. As to each article except one of the doorknobs and the fingernail 'scrapings,' he testified that the blood...

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  • Stokley v. State, 2 Div. 283
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • December 7, 1950
    ...injected into the trial an issue foreign to those involved in this trial. Davis v. State, 21 Ala.App. 649, 11 So. 645. See Helms v. State, Ala.Sup., 47 So.2d 276. Nor was the evidence sought to be elicited admissible on the theory that it tended to show that the defendant's witness George S......
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    ...in its oral charge. The general rule as to the effect of voluntary intoxication in homicide cases is stated in Helms v. State, 254 Ala. 14, 19, 47 So.2d 276, 281 (1950), as follows: "Voluntary drunkenness neither excuses nor palliates crime. But in murder cases evidence of drunkenness to su......
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    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • July 14, 1960
    ...heard of the defendant being charged with other offenses or of specific acts of bad conduct on the part of the defendant. Helms v. State, 254 Ala. 14, 47 So.2d 276; Kervin v. State, 254 Ala. 419, 48 So.2d 204; Johnson v. State, 260 Ala. 276, 69 So.2d 854. The better practice is to frame the......
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    ...of subjective knowledge. There is support for this conclusion from the holdings of our sister states. See, e.g., Helms v. State, 254 Ala. 14, 47 So.2d 276, 280 (1950); State v. Watkins, 126 Ariz. 293, 614 P.2d 835, 843 (1980) (In Banc) (stating that when second-degree murder statute include......
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