People v. Crittle, 13

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Citation390 Mich. 367,212 N.W.2d 196
Docket NumberNo. 13,13
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Samuel Lee CRITTLE, Defendant-Appellant. 390 Mich. 367, 212 N.W.2d 196
Decision Date21 November 1973
Ronald J. Taylor, Pros. Atty., by Edward L. Skinner, Asst. Pros. Atty., Berrien County, St. Joseph, for plaintiff-appellee

State Appellate Defender Office by David A. Goldstein, Asst. Defender, Detroit, for defendant-appellant.

Before the Entire Bench.

WILLIAMS, Justice.

What constitutes a proper jury instruction relative to intoxication where an element of the crime is the existence of a specific intent is the substantial issue in this case.

I--FACTS

The defendant was involved in a parking accident and seemed to the driver of the bumped car to be intoxicated, slurring his words etc. when they exchanged information. Immediately thereafter defendant entered a grocery store, pointed a gun at a cashier, saying 'This is a hold up.' The cashier recognized defendant as a customer of 2 or 3 months. The cashier asked if he was serious and he said yes. After she gave defendant the paper money, he laid it on the counter and asked 'Is that all?' She said there was change and got that. She thought defendant was going to shoot her.

Subsequently, defendant gave back the money (though the owner claimed $40 was missing) and said it was an April Fool's joke and asked if the cashier was all right. He asked and paid for a bottle of beer out of his own money. The cashier noted he slurred his words and staggered out of the store. He had a plastic mask inside his shirt but did not use it.

After notification the police went to defendant's house and arrested him. The police smelled alcohol on him and noticed he was slurring his words. Defendant told the police and his wife that it was an April Fool's joke.

Defendant was convicted of robbery armed after a jury trial and sentenced to 25--50 years. 38 Mich.App. 118, 195 N.W.2d 799 (1972).

II--CASE FOR SUPERINTENDING CONTROL

To begin with, the error strongly urged by defendant in this case was not properly preserved for appeal. The Court of Appeals did not consider whether the error required reversal giving as a reason 'The no objection--no review rule . . . unless there is a miscarriage of justice.' 38 Mich.App. 118, 120, 195 N.W.2d 799, 800.

However, this Court has always reserved the right to review Sua sponte in an appropriate case. As we said in People v. Harrison, 386 Mich. 269, 275, 191 N.W.2d 371, 374 (1971):

'. . . This Court has always preserved its right to consider serious errors even in the absence of objection by the party who appeals. Then Justice, now Chief Justice, Thomas M. Kavanagh explained this exercise of supervisory control in People v. Dorrikas, 354 Mich. 303, 316, 92 N.W.2d 305, 307 (1958):

"Ordinarily where no timely objection was made to the introduction of such testimony and no request to charge was made, this Court would not examine the points relied upon for reversal, and except under unusual circumstances we have no disposition to relax this rule. Nevertheless, as in a number of previous In our opinion this case is one for us to exercise our superintending control, because there is not only an egregious error in the case, but it is an error which has caused confusion and a failure to correctly apply the true rule of law in a number of other cases.

cases, this Court, in the exercise of supervisory control over all litigation, has often asserted the right to consider manifest and serious errors although objection was not made by the party who appeals. The inherent power of this Court to prevent fundamental injustice is not limited by what appellant is entitled to as a matter of right. People v. Steeneck (1929), 247 Mich. 583, 226 N.W. [390 MICH 371] 231; People v. Holmes (1940), 292 Mich. 212, 290 N.W. 384; People v. Kelsey (1942), 303 Mich. 715, 7 N.W.2d 120.' 354 Mich. 303, 316, 92 N.W.2d 305, 307.'

III--ISSUE AND LAW

The issue and error involved in this case concern the jury instructions relative to the impact of defendant's intoxication upon his guilt where the charge was robbery armed, which is a crime requiring specific felonious intent.

The rule of law relative to the impact of drunkenness in specific intent crimes is tersely and clearly stated in the words of Justice Cooley in People v. Walker, 38 Mich. 156, 158 (1878):

'While it is true that drunkenness cannot excuse crime, it is equally true that when a certain intent is a necessary element in a crime, the crime cannot have been committed when the intent did not exist. In larceny the crime does not consist in the wrongful taking of the property, for that might be a mere trespass; but it consists in the wrongful taking with felonious intent; and if the defendant for any reason whatever, indulged no such intent, the crime cannot have been committed . . .'

This language was specifically approved in People v. Guillett, 342 Mich. 1, 5, 69 N.W.2d 140 (1955). See also Roberts v. People, 19 Mich. 401, 414 (1870) and People v. Paul, 13 Mich.App. 175, 177, 163 N.W.2d 803 (1968).

My Brother Levin authoritatively brought this rule up to date while he sat on the Court of Appeals in People v. Kelley, 21 Mich.App. 612, 618--619, 176 N.W.2d 435 (1970). To conserve space only a key sentence is here reproduced (619, 176 N.W.2d 438):

'. . . Thus, although Intoxication is not a defense where only general intent needs to be shown, E.g., where the crime charged is involuntary manslaughter or statutory rape, the Michigan Supreme Court has held that it Can be shown to negative the requisite specific intent where the crime charged is assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to rape and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than the crime of murder. . . .' (Emphasis added and references omitted.)

IV--APPLICATION OF LAW TO CRITTLE CHARGE

The pertinent part of the Crittle jury instructions 1 claimed to be in error was:

'You would not, however, be justified in acquitting . . . unless you find For a crime requiring specific intent this is not the law. The test, to use Justice Cooley's words again, is:

. . . that he was not conscious of what he was doing or why he was doing it . . .'

'While it is true that drunkenness cannot excuse a crime, it is equally true that when a certain intent is a necessary element in a crime the crime cannot have been committed when the intent did not exist . . . if the defendant, for any reason whatever, indulged no such intent, the crime cannot have been committed . . .'

The Cooley test does not require the defendant to be 'not conscious of what he was doing or why he was doing it,' it only requires in a specific intent crime that the defendant not have that specific intent.

In terms of the Crittle case, if the jury, for example, believed that the defendant was engaging in a drunken prank, however misguided, rather than intending a robbery armed, under the Cooley test the jury would find the defendant not guilty of robbery armed although it might well find him guilty of some other crime not requiring the same specific intent. Under the Crittle rule, however, even if they found defendant only intended a drunken prank, they would be required to find the defendant guilty of robbery armed because in performing the prank he presumably knew what he was doing if not why he was doing it, and hence he would be falling afoul of the Crittle instruction without in any way having the intent necessary for robbery armed. The Crittle instructions are consequently reversibly erroneous.

V--CONFUSING INTOXICATION RULES IN SPECIFIC INTENT CRIMES

We come now to the consideration of some of the confusing rules re jury instruction on the effect of drunkenness in specific intent crimes. These rules are expressed in such language as:

'Too drunk to be capable of forming the statutory intent' (People v. Haley, 48 Mich. 495, 497, 12 N.W. 671, 672 (1882));

So intoxicated that they 'did not know what they were doing' (People v. Hearn, 354 Mich. 468, 470, 93 N.W.2d 302, 303 (1958));

'So intoxicated . . . that he would be incapable of forming an intent . . . he did not know what he was doing' (People v. Stram, 40 Mich.App. 249, 252, 198 N.W.2d 753, 755 (1972)); or

'So far overcome by the intoxication that he was not conscious of what he was doing, or if he did know what he was doing, but did not know why he was doint it . . .' (Roberts v. People, 19 Mich. 401 (1870)).

These various rules all have one thing in common. They refer to a Capacity standard....

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