People v. Drew

Citation149 Cal.Rptr. 275,583 P.2d 1318,22 Cal.3d 333
Decision Date26 September 1978
Docket NumberCr. 20081
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Parties, 583 P.2d 1318 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Ronald Jay DREW, Defendant and Appellant.

Appellate Defenders, Inc., under appointment by the Supreme Court, and Harold F. Tyvoll, San Diego, for defendant and appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Jack R. Winkler, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Daniel J. Kremer, Asst. Atty. Gen., Alan S. Meth and Jay M. Bloom, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

TOBRINER, Justice.

For over a century California has followed the M'Naghten 1 test 2 to define the defenses of insanity and idiocy. The deficiencies of that test have long been apparent, and judicial attempts to reinterpret or evade the limitations of M'Naghten have proven inadequate. We shall explain why we have concluded that we should discard the M'Naghten language, and update the California test of mental incapacity as a criminal defense by adopting the test proposed by the American Law Institute 3 and followed by the federal judiciary and the courts of 15 states.

Understandably, in view of our past adherence to M'Naghten, neither the psychiatrists who examined defendant nor the jury evaluated defendant's capacity in terms of the ALI test. Since the evidentiary record indicates that defendant, a former mental patient with a history of irrational assaultive behavior, lacked the capacity to conform his conduct to legal requirements, we conclude that the court's failure to instruct the jury under the ALI test was prejudicial, and therefore reverse the conviction.

Defendant Drew also contends that Evidence Code section 522, which requires a defendant to prove insanity by a preponderance of the evidence, is unconstitutional. Controlling precedent in the United States Supreme Court (see Patterson v. New York (1977) 432 U.S. 197, 97 S.Ct. 2319, 53 L.Ed.2d 281), and in this court (see People v. Miller (1972) 7 Cal.3d 562, 102 Cal.Rptr. 841, 498 P.2d 1089) mandates the rejection of this contention.

Finally, Drew argues that the record is insufficient to sustain the jury finding of sanity. We conclude, however, that a jury instructed under the M'Naghten rule could reasonably find that defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he was unaware of the wrongfulness of his conduct. Thus Drew is not entitled to an order directing the trial court to find him insane, but only to a new trial on the issue of sanity in which the jury is instructed under the ALI test.

1. Statement of Facts.

Defendant Drew, a 22-year-old man, was drinking in a bar in Brawley during the early morning of October 26, 1975. He left $5 on the bar to pay for drinks and went to the men's room. When he returned, the money was missing. Drew accused one Truman Sylling, a customer at the bar, of taking the money. A heated argument ensued, and the bartender phoned for police assistance.

Officers Guerrero and Bonsell arrived at the bar. When Guerrero attempted to question Sylling, Drew interfered to continue the argument. Bonsell then asked Drew to step outside. Drew refused. Bonsell took Drew by the hand, and he and Officer Schulke, who had just arrived at the bar, attempted to escort Drew outside. Drew broke away from the officers and struck Bonsell in the face. Bonsell struck his head against the edge of the bar and fell to the floor. Drew fell on top of him and attempted to bite him, but was restrained by Guerrero and Schulke. Drew continued to resist violently until he was finally placed in a cell at the police station.

Charged with battery on a peace officer (Pen.Code, § 243), obstructing an officer (Pen.Code, § 148), and disturbing the peace (Pen.Code, § 415), Drew pled not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. At the guilt trial, Drew testified on his own behalf; he denied striking Bonsell and maintained that the officer's injuries were accidental. Bonsell's testimony, however, was corroborated by Guerrero and Sylling. The jury found Drew guilty as charged.

Two court-appointed psychiatrists testified at the sanity trial. Dr. Otto Gericke, former Medical Director at Patton State Hospital, testified that Drew was committed to that hospital for nine months in 1972 after Drew was found incompetent to stand trial on an unspecified charge. He examined him on that occasion; again on February 1, 1976, to determine Drew's competency to stand trial on the instant charge; and a third time on June 6, 1976, on the question of Drew's sanity.

Dr. Gericke described Drew's condition as one of latent schizophrenia, characterized by repeated incidents of assaultive behavior and by conversing with inanimate objects and nonexistent persons; this condition could be controlled by medication but if left untreated would deteriorate to paranoid schizophrenia.

Relying upon his examinations and Drew's medical history at Patton State Hospital, Dr. Gericke concluded that Drew was unable to appreciate the difference between right and wrong at the time he attacked Officer Bonsell.

The second witness, Dr. Ethel Chapman, was a staff psychiatrist at Patton State Hospital. She also examined Drew under court appointment in February and June of 1976, and was acquainted with him from his stay at the hospital in 1972. She concurred with Dr. Gericke's diagnosis of his condition, adding the observation that his symptoms would be aggravated by the ingestion of alcohol, and joined in Dr. Gericke's conclusion that Drew did not understand that his assault upon Officer Bonsell was wrong.

The prosecution presented no evidence at the sanity trial. Nevertheless the jury, instructed that the defendant has the burden of proving insanity under the M'Naghten test, found him sane. The court thereupon sentenced Drew to prison on the battery conviction. He appeals from the judgment of conviction.

2. This court should adopt the American Law Institute test, as stated in section 4.01, subpart (1) of the Model Penal Code, to define the defense of insanity.

The trial court instructed the jury that "Legal insanity . . . means a diseased or deranged condition of the mind which makes a person incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of his act, or makes a person incapable of knowing or understanding that his act was wrong." 4 We explain that this instruction, based on the M'Naghten test, was erroneous, and on the record before us constitutes prejudicial error requiring reversal of the judgment.

The purpose of a legal test for insanity is to identify those persons who, owing to mental incapacity, should not be held criminally responsible for their conduct. The criminal law rests on a postulate of free will that all persons of sound mind are presumed capable of conforming their behavior to legal requirements 5 and that when any such person freely chooses to violate the law, he may justly be held responsible. (See Goldstein, The Insanity Defense (1967) pp. 9-10.) From the earliest days of the common law, however, the courts have recognized that a few persons lack the mental capacity to conform to the strictures of the law. Thus in 1582 William Lambart of Lincoln's Inn wrote that "If . . . a mad man or a natural fool, or a lunatic in the time of his lunacy, or a child who apparently had no knowledge of good or evil, do kill a man, this is no felonious act . . . for they cannot be said to have any understanding will." (Lambart, Eirenarcha (1582) Cat. 21.218. (Spelling modernized).) The principle that mental incapacity constitutes a defense to crime is today accepted in all American jurisdictions. (See Weihofen, Mental Disorder as a Criminal Defense (1954) p. 51.)

The California Penal Code codifies the defense of mental incapacity. Section 20 states that "(i)n every crime . . . there must exist a union . . . of act and intent." Section 21 provides as to persons of sound mind "(t)he intent . . . is manifested by the circumstances connected with the offense" and that "All persons are of sound mind who are neither idiots nor lunatics, nor affected with insanity." Finally section 26 specifies that "All persons are capable of committing crimes except those belonging to the following classes" and includes among those classes "Idiots" and "Lunatics and insane persons." 6

Although the Legislature has thus provided that "insanity" is a defense to a criminal charge, it has never attempted to define that term. The task of describing the circumstances under which mental incapacity will relieve a defendant of criminal responsibility has become the duty of the judiciary.

Since People v. Coffman (1864) 24 Cal. 230, 235, the California courts have followed the M'Naghten rule to define the defense of insanity. The curious origin of the M'Naghten rule has been frequently recounted. (See, e. g., United States v. Freeman (2d Cir. 1966) 357 F.2d 606, 616-617; Weihofen, Mental Disorder as a Criminal Defense, Supra, pp. 59-63.) In 1843 Daniel M'Naghten, afflicted with paranoia, attempted to assassinate the Prime Minister of England, and succeeded in killing the Prime Minister's secretary. M'Naghten's acquittal on grounds of insanity so disturbed Queen Victoria that she summoned the House of Lords to obtain the opinion of the judges on the law of insanity. The 15 judges of the common law courts were called in an extraordinary session, "under a not too subtle atmosphere of pressure" (United States v. Freeman, supra, 357 F.2d 606, 617), to answer five hypothetical questions on the law of criminal responsibility.

In response to two of the questions propounded the judges stated that "to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was...

To continue reading

Request your trial
177 cases
  • People v. Fields, Cr. 21126
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 29, 1983 legal requirements, and thus was insane under the test of insanity in effect at the time of the trial. (See People v. Drew (1978) 22 Cal.3d 333, 339, 149 Cal.Rptr. 275, 583 P.2d On cross-examination, Dr. Markman was asked, "[I]f the law were such that a mental disease or mental defect wo......
  • People v. Powell, S137730
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 13, 2018
    ...presented "was of such weight and quality that a jury could not reasonably reject it," is based on a misreading of People v. Drew (1978) 22 Cal.3d 333, 149 Cal.Rptr. 275, 583 P.2d 1318 ( Drew ). In that case, we adopted an alternative to the M'Naghten sanity test, a decision that was subseq......
  • People v. McCarrick, A136822
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 30, 2016
    ...appeal verdicts which find a defendant to be sane in the face of contrary unanimous expert opinion. [Citations.]" (People v. Drew (1978) 22 Cal.3d 333, 350, 149 Cal.Rptr. 275, 583 P.2d 1318, superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Skinner , supra , 39 Cal.3d at pp. 768–769, 217 ......
  • Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • June 2, 1980
    ...Cal.3d 180] Assn. v. Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. (1979) 24 Cal.3d 458, dis.opn. 501, 156 Cal.Rptr. 14, 595 P.2d 592; People v. Drew (1978) 22 Cal.3d 333, dis.opn. 361, 149 Cal.Rptr. 275, 583 P.2d 1318; Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660, dis.opn. 686-687, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106; Li ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT