People v. Adams

Decision Date27 March 1973
Docket NumberNo. 11,M,11
Citation205 N.W.2d 415,389 Mich. 222
Parties, 59 A.L.R.3d 1288 PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Otis L. ADAMS, Defendant and Appellee. arch 1972.
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Bruce A. Barton, Pros. Atty., Jackson County, Paula O. Hosick, Chief Appellate Atty., Jackson County, Jackson, for plaintiff and appellant.

James S. Treciak, Jackson, for defendant and appellee.

Before the Entire Bench.

WILLIAMS, Justice.

There are three controlling issues. First, is that part of the Michigan kidnapping statute, M.C.L.A. § 750.349; M.S.A. § 28.581, reading 'Any person who wilfully, maliciously and without lawful authority shall forcibly . . . confine or imprison any other person within this state against his will . . . shall be guilty of a felony,' constitutionally viable without interpolating asportation or some similar element? Second, could the jury lawfully find asportation under the facts of this case? Third, was the jury lawfully charged?


It is necessary to detail the facts quite thoroughly in order that the elements of the kidnapping statute can be better examined and applied to this case. We adopt the statement of facts in the Court of Appeals' majority opinion which found them inadequate to sustain asportation:

'On the morning of October 18, 1965, Adams consumed substantial quantities of alcohol and barbiturates in the company of several other inmates of Jackson Prison. Their conversation turned to the grievances--real or imagined--which they felt against the prison administration.

'Shortly after 11:00 a.m., Adams and inmate Edward Whitehead went to the main dining hall of the prison where lunch was being served. Adams cut into the serving line ahead of other inmates and was told by a guard to go to the end of the line. Adams directed some verbal abuse at the guard, then proceeded with Whitehead to the prison's 4-block, a cell block in the northwest portion of the prison. Adams' conduct aroused the attention of two unarmed prison guards who followed him to 4-block.

'Because this was the lunch hour, several hundred prisoners were milling about 4-block. The presence of Adams and Whitehead, plus a third inmate, Alvin Shaw, all of whom were highly agitated, as well as the two guards and the hundreds of milling prisoners, led to a disturbance of uncertain proportions.

'At this time Inspector Joseph Dembosky, the highest ranking uniformed prison officer, was notified of the disturbance in 4-block. He immediately proceeded to the area and thrust himself into the center of the milling crowd.

'Before Inspector Dembosky could take any action, he was seized from behind by inmate Whitehead, who held a knife to his throat. Adams also produced a knife which he used to wave back the prisoners pressing in on Inspector Dembosky and Whitehead. At the trial Inspector Dembosky testified that at this point he said, 'Can't we talk about this?' Another witness testified that Dembosky said, 'Can't we go somewhere and talk about this?' Adams, Whitehead, and Shaw, all of whom had knives, then accompanied Dembosky at knife-point out of 4-block into the prison yard.

'There were approximately one thousand inmates in the yard as Dembosky, Whitehead, Shaw, and Adams left 4-block. Inspector Dembosky testified that he felt that there was danger of a riot if the party remained in the yard. He suggested that they go to the prison gymnasium to talk things over. Instead, he was forced to accompany Whitehead, Shaw, and Adams to the prison hospital, which was roughly 1500 feet from the entrance to 4-block. During their journey to the hospital, the armed inmates repeatedly shouted warnings to the heavily-armed tower guards that Inspector Dembosky would be killed if they were fired upon.

'Shortly before reaching the hospital building, the group was joined by another inmate, Milton Thomas, who was also armed. Together, immediately after entering the hospital, they seized two guards, a prison doctor, and an inmate elevator operator named Hubbard. Shaw, Whitehead, Thomas, and Adams, together with Inspector Dembosky and the other victims, then proceeded to the doctor's lounge on the fifth floor of the hospital.

'Adams and his cohorts erected barricades around the lounge. Over an intercom, they repeatedly demanded to see various prison officials, as well as the warden, to air their grievances. They also demanded to see a newspaper reporter. There were repeated warnings that Inspector Dembosky would be killed if they were fired upon.

'During the hours that followed, the armed inmates displayed contradictory behavior toward their captives. The physician was released when Adams ascertained that he had a heart condition. Thomas told the warden to notify the pregnant wife of one of the captive guards that he would not be harmed. Contrastingly, inmate Hubbard was severely beaten by Adams, then released as an example of Adams' serious intentions.

'A number of prison officials visited the fifth floor landing to discuss grievances. A newspaper reporter summoned to the scene was occupied for almost three hours in recording these grievances. Adams repeatedly expressed his fear of being shot by guards when he left the fifth floor.

'After about 5 1/2 hours, Shaw, Whitehead, Thomas, and Adams were persuaded to abandon their barricaded position. Upon being given assurances that they would not be shot, they released their captives unharmed. They then proceeded to the deputy warden's office, where they surrendered their weapons.' 34 Mich.App. 546, 552--554, 192 N.W.2d 19, 22, 23.

The portion of the statute we are called on to construe is that set forth in the information. Defendant Adams was tried on charges of: 'wilfully, maliciously, and without lawful authority forcibly confining and imprisoning another person . . . within this State and against his will.'

At trial the jury returned a verdict of guilty and in a split decision the Court of Appeals reversed, 34 Mich.App. 546, 192 N.W.2d 19. Judge Levin for a divided court held the statute unconstitutionally overbroad unless limitations were interpolated to confine its operative effect. He added this limitation by construing the statute to require an asportation so as to differentiate the offense from false imprisonment. This asportation, he held, must have a significance independent of the underlying crime (i.e., assault) and also must remove the victim from the environment in which he is found and expose him to an increased risk of harm. He held that as a matter of law the instant facts did not constitute such asportation and hence there was no kidnapping. Judge Gillis dissented saying the facts constituted a typical kidnapping.


The next of the statute involved, M.C.L.A. § 750.349; M.S.A. § 28.581, with the part charged in the information in italics reads as follows:

'Any person Who wilfully, maliciously and without lawful authority shall forcibly or secretly Confine or imprison any other person within this state against his will, or shall forcibly carry or send such person out of this state, or shall forcibly seize or confine, or shall inveigle or kidnap any other person with intent to extort money or other valuable thing thereby or with intent either to cause such person to be secretly confined or imprisoned in this state against his will, or in any way held to service against his will, shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years.' (Emphasis added.)

Since this statute is not a model of clarity it is our constitutional duty to give a reasonable construction to it. The cases under the statute provide little guidance, however. 1 We agree with Judge Levin's thoughtful and careful analysis that the sweep of this part of the statute is so broad that it requires the interpolation of the historical concept of asportation to render it constitutional, and it is our duty to do so. See Michigan Towing Association Inc. v. Detroit, 370 Mich. 440, 456, 122 N.W.2d 709 (1963); State Bar of Michigan v. Lansing, 361 Mich. 185, 195, 105 N.W.2d 131 (1960). Failure to do so would result in denial of due process, Giaccio v. Pennsylvania, 382 U.S. 399, 86 S.Ct. 518, 15 L.Ed.2d 447 (1965).

Where a kidnapping statute does not in terms require asportation or its equivalent, such a requirement has not infrequently been judicially read into and made a part of the definition of the crime. 2


At common law, kidnapping was a misdemeanor with well defined elements; first, the forcible abduction of a person from his own country, and second, sending him to another country. This was considered more than false imprisonment, since kidnapping included all the elements of false imprisonment with the additional element of asportation of the victim outside his own country and beyond the protection of its laws. 3

Statutory law, in modifying common law kidnapping, has abolished the requirement that a national or regional boundary be breached. 4 However, with the abolition of the breached boundary requirement, a lack of precision was created in the law as to the degree of asportation required to transform a lesser crime into kidnapping. 5

Torn between the common law rule that a most significant asportation was required, and the obvious legislative intention to broaden the scope of the offense, the courts, virtually without exception, began by endorsing the idea that any movement, however slight, was sufficient to constitute the asportation element of kidnapping. 6

Representative of this formulation were the opinions of the California Supreme Court in People v. Chessman, 38 Cal.2d 166, 192, 238 P.2d 1001, 1017 (1951) and People v. Wein, 50 Cal.2d 383, 399--400, 326 P.2d 457, 466 (1958). In Chessman, the defendant forced his victim to move 22 feet to his automobile, where he sexually assaulted her. The Court held that, 'It is the fact, not the...

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