People v. Jackson

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtEDMONDS; GIBSON; CARTER; TRAYNOR; SCHAUER
Citation282 P.2d 898,44 Cal.2d 511
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Harold JACKSON, also known as Hans M. Anderson, and Joseph Lear, Defendants-Appellants. Crim. 5658.
Decision Date28 April 1955

Page 898

282 P.2d 898
44 Cal.2d 511
The PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Harold JACKSON, also known as Hans M. Anderson, and Joseph Lear, Defendants-Appellants.
Crim. 5658.
Supreme Court of California, In Bank.
April 28, 1955.
Rehearing Denied May 25, 1955.

[44 Cal.2d 512] Valentine C. Hammack and Sidney Feinberg, San Francisco, for appellant Jackson.

Frances Newell Carr, Sacramento, and Robert K. Winters, Benicia, for appellant Lear.

Edmund G. Brown, Atty. Gen., Clarence A. Linn, Asst. Atty. Gen., Raymond M. Momboisse, Deputy Atty. Gen., Thomas C. Lynch, District Atty. (City and County of San Francisco), and Norman Elkington, Asst. Dist. Atty., San Francisco, for respondent.

EDMONDS, Justice.

Harold Jackson and Joseph Lear were tried jointly upon an indictment which charged that they kidnapped Leonard Moskovitz for ransom or reward, inflicting bodily harm upon the victim. A second count of the indictment alleged that they conspired to commit the crime and that they were armed with a deadly weapon when it was committed. Jackson's prior conviction of a felony was also pleaded. A jury found both men guilty as charged and made no recommendation as to the penalty.

The death sentence was imposed upon Jackson. The trial judge ordered 'that the verdict of the jury be modified' [44 Cal.2d 513] as to Lear and fixed his punishment at life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The automatic appeal by Jackson, Pen.Code, § 1239, subd. b, and Lear's appeal from the judgment and an order denying a motion for a new trial have been consolidated.

The evidence concerning these facts is without substantial conflict:

At the time of the asserted kidnaping, Leonard and his twin brother, Alfred, operated a real estate business, assisted in an advisory capacity by their father, Maurice Moskovitz. Both Leonard and Alfred were financially sound and free from pressing obligations. The members of the

Page 899

Moskovitz family were unacquainted with Jackson and Lear, except possibly for a business transaction between Jackson and the father several years previously.

On January 13th, the Wednesday preceding Leonard's abduction, Jackson called at Leonard's office and introduced himself as 'Mr. Lund.' He asked to see some real estate and arranged to do so upon the following weekend. On Saturday morning, he telephoned to Leonard and made an appointment to meet him a short time later at a designated location. When Leonard arrived, Jackson persuaded him to drive to a house where his wife and brother-in-law assertedly were waiting for them.

After they entered the house, Jackson ordered Leonard to remove his coat and then pushed him to a sitting position upon the couch. Jackson held his arms as Lear entered the room, brandishing a knife which he placed at Leonard's throat, saying, 'One peep out of you and you are dead.' Leonard's wrists and ankles were chained and his wallet and papers removed from his pocket. He was then told he was to be held captive until ransom in the amount of $500,000 had been received.

A short time later, the chain on one of Leonard's wrists was removed. At Jackson's dictation, he wrote a letter to his father, demanding the payment of ransom and directing him to communicate with the kidnapers through the personal column of a local newspaper. The chains then were refastened and ear plugs placed in his ears and adhesive tape over his mouth. He was taken to the bedroom with the warning not to 'attempt anything', that there were five members of the gang, some of whom were watching the house constantly.

When Leonard did not return to his office, his father became alarmed and called the police. On Saturday evening, [44 Cal.2d 514] the first ransom letter was received by Leonard's mother and shown to police officers. A communication to the kidnapers was prepared and telephone officials alerted.

In the evening, Leonard was given food and then was made to lie chained on a mattress in the living room throughout the night. On Sunday morning he was compelled to write a second letter, repeating the demand for ransom and describing the manner in which the money was to be accumulated. During the day he remained chained and blindfolded. That evening, he was shown a newspaper personal message that his family could not raise the sum demanded and that they wished to negotiate. After some discussion, Jackson and Lear agreed to reduce their demands to $300,000. Lear dictated several letters to Leonard, specifying the method to be followed by his family in delivering the money. These letters were not mailed and subsequently were destroyed.

On Monday morning, a second message appeared in the newspaper, notifying the kidnapers of acquiescence in their demands. Extensive discussions were had at that time between Lear, Jackson and Leonard as to the method of delivering the money. Leonard persuaded them that the previous plan was 'too complicated', suggesting instead that they contact his brother. After some argument, Jackson and Lear agreed. They drove that night to a public telephone where Leonard was allowed to talk to Alfred. Arrangements were made to communicate with the family later.

When they returned to the house, there was more discussion regarding the method to be followed for delivery of the ransom. They settled upon a plan by which the money was to be placed in two suitcases and delivered to a specified telephone booth. Leonard was returned unchained and unbound to the bedroom while Lear left to make a telephone call. He was apprehended while attempting to do so. Upon interrogation by police officers, he admitted the kidnaping and directed them to Jackson and Leonard. When the officers broke into the house, they found Jackson in the living room, clad only in his shorts, and Leonard hiding in a closet in the bedroom.

Jackson's defense was that the asserted kidnaping was a hoax devised to extort money from Leonard's father. According to the evidence presented by him, he had known Leonard for several years. He had

Page 900

met with Leonard a few months before the purported kidnaping to work out a plan for accomplishing it. He denied that Leonard had been chained other than on the first day at the house.

[44 Cal.2d 515] Lear's position was that he had no knowledge of the kidnaping until Jackson appeared at the house with Leonard. He testified, however, that he assisted Jackson thereafter out of fear for himself and his stepson. His account of the events was similar in most parts to those related by witnesses for the prosecution. He concluded that the kidnaping was 'phoney' when he observed Leonard unchained and there was jesting between Leonard and Jackson when the ransom notes were written. As he related the discussions with regard to delivery of the ransom money, it was agreed that Leonard was to receive either $100,000 or $200,000.

Numerous points are made by Jackson and Lear as grounds for reversing the judgment of conviction. The most important of them relate to the sufficiency of the evidence to show 'bodily harm' and acts of asserted prejudicial misconduct by the trial judge and the prosecuting attorney. Other assignments of error include challenges of the rulings upon the admission of evidence and instructions to the jury.

Section 209 of the Penal Code, which prescribes the punishment for the crime of kidnaping (for ransom, reward, extortion or robbery,) was amended in 1933 to provide that one convicted of that crime 'shall suffer death or shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life without possibility of parole, at the discretion of the jury trying the same, in cases in which the person or persons subjected to such kidnaping suffers or suffer bodily harm or shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life with possibility of parole in cases where such person or persons do not suffer bodily harm.' The 1933 amendment, Stats. 1933, p. 2617, was patterned after the federal Lindbergh Law, which authorizes the imposition of the death penalty for kidnaping except when the victim has been liberated 'unharmed.'

The uncertainties of the federal statute were the subject of comment in Robinson v. United States, 324 U.S. 282, 65 S.Ct. 666, 89 L.Ed. 944, involving a prosecution under that act. There the evidence showed that the victim had suffered injuries from two violent blows on the head with an iron bar and abrasions to the lips from repeated applications of tape. Reading the word 'unharmed' as meaning 'uninjured', the Supreme Court stated: 'Two possible reasons suggest themselves * * * as to the motivation of Congress in making the severity of a kidnapper's punishment depend upon whether his victim has been injured. The first reason [44 Cal.2d 516] is the old belief that the severity of the injury should measure the rigor of the punishment. If this be the reasoning implicit in the statute, it would appear...

To continue reading

Request your trial
44 practice notes
  • People v. Heishman
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 9 Mayo 1988
    ...judgment of guilt should be affirmed but that the sentence of death should be reduced to life imprisonment]; cf. People v. Jackson (1955) 44 Cal.2d 511, 282 P.2d 898 [reversing a judgment with directions to the trial court to reduce a death penalty to life imprisonment in a case in which se......
  • People v. Allison, No. S004649
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 11 Mayo 1989
    ...judgment of guilt should be affirmed but that the sentence of death should be reduced to life imprisonment]; cf. People v. Jackson (1955) 44 Cal.2d 511, 282 P.2d 898 [reversing a judgment with directions to the trial court to reduce a death penalty to life imprisonment in a case in which se......
  • People v. Gilbert, Cr. 8690
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 15 Diciembre 1965
    ...in falling. Such trivial injury is not sufficient to constitute bodily harm within the meaning of section 209. In People v. Jackson, 44 Cal.2d 511, 516-517, 282 P.2d 898, we held that the victim of a kidnaping suffered no bodily harm as a matter of law, although he was pushed into a sitting......
  • People v. Wein, Cr. 6130
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 27 Mayo 1958
    ...731, 757, 104 P.2d 794, 808. It appears, however, that the comments here were more similar to those criticized in People v. Jackson, 44 Cal.2d 511, 282 P.2d 898. There the prosecutor in a kidnaping case referred to the Greenlease, Hart, and Lindbergh cases, and compared the ultimate fate of......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
44 cases
  • People v. Heishman
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 9 Mayo 1988
    ...judgment of guilt should be affirmed but that the sentence of death should be reduced to life imprisonment]; cf. People v. Jackson (1955) 44 Cal.2d 511, 282 P.2d 898 [reversing a judgment with directions to the trial court to reduce a death penalty to life imprisonment in a case in which se......
  • People v. Allison, No. S004649
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 11 Mayo 1989
    ...judgment of guilt should be affirmed but that the sentence of death should be reduced to life imprisonment]; cf. People v. Jackson (1955) 44 Cal.2d 511, 282 P.2d 898 [reversing a judgment with directions to the trial court to reduce a death penalty to life imprisonment in a case in which se......
  • People v. Gilbert, Cr. 8690
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 15 Diciembre 1965
    ...in falling. Such trivial injury is not sufficient to constitute bodily harm within the meaning of section 209. In People v. Jackson, 44 Cal.2d 511, 516-517, 282 P.2d 898, we held that the victim of a kidnaping suffered no bodily harm as a matter of law, although he was pushed into a sitting......
  • People v. Wein, Cr. 6130
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 27 Mayo 1958
    ...731, 757, 104 P.2d 794, 808. It appears, however, that the comments here were more similar to those criticized in People v. Jackson, 44 Cal.2d 511, 282 P.2d 898. There the prosecutor in a kidnaping case referred to the Greenlease, Hart, and Lindbergh cases, and compared the ultimate fate of......
  • 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