People v. Luther, 10

Decision Date20 August 1975
Docket NumberNo. 10,10
Citation394 Mich. 619,232 N.W.2d 184
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Herman LUTHER, Defendant-Appellee. 394 Mich. 619, 232 N.W.2d 184
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

James M. Justin, Asst. Pros. Atty., Jackson, for plaintiff-appellant.

State Appellate Defender Officer by Norris J. Thomas, Jr., Sharon Sloan, Asst. Defenders, Detroit, for defendant-appellee.

Before the Entire Bench (except SWAINSON, J.)

LINDEMER, Justice.

Defendant was convicted after a jury trial of prison escape. M.C.L.A. § 750.193; M.S.A. § 28.390. His conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeals on the basis of an erroneous jury instruction as to his defense of duress. We agree that the charge was reversibly erroneous and affirm the Court of Appeals.

At trial defendant did not question the lawfulness of his incarceration nor did he claim that his departure was authorized by prison officials. His sole defense was that he left due to duress.

Defendant testified that he was confronted in a lavatory by six unknown assailants who made homosexual demands of him. When he refused and attempted to leave the room, he was beaten with a toilet bowl brush, had a knife waved in his face, was knocked down or fell and hit his face on a washbasin and was literally chased off the grounds at approximately 10:30 p.m. He testified that during the flight from his assailants, he tried unsuccessfully to locate the officer on duty that night. Defendant was apprehended on I--94 within a few miles of the camp about 6:30 the next morning.

The trial court's instruction on duress read as follows:

'Now, jurors, I instruct you that it is not a defense to escaping prison that the defendant fled to avoid homosexual attacks by other prisoners.

'However, you may consider as a valid defense whether the defendant escaped while being under duress.

'And I instruct you in reference to duress that an act which might otherwise constitute a crime may be excused on the ground that it was done under compulsion or duress, but the compulsion must be present, imminent and impending, and of such a nature as to induce a wellfounded apprehension of death, or serious bodily harm, if the act is not done. Threats of future injury will not excuse an offense.

'I instruct you, jurors, that in reference to the defense of the defendant concerning duress, the People have the burden of proof in this case to prove that the defendant did not leave Camp Waterloo under duress.' (Emphasis supplied.)

Defendant argues that the emphasized portion of the jury instructions was reversibly erroneous because it precluded the jury from considering the specific duress defense that he had offered, namely duress caused by fear of forcible homosexual attack. The prosecutor contends that under People v. Noble, 18 Mich.App. 300, 170 N.W.2d 916 (1969), the instructions were proper.

Defense counsel in Noble evidently claimed that the alleged homosexual attacks negated defendant's specific intent to escape. His escape was also justified as caused by an irresistible impulse. The Court did not address itself to the issue of duress. It determined that the escape statute was not one of specific intent but of a general prohibition and held that the evidence of irresistible impulse was properly excluded since the defendant did not give the required four-day notice of an insanity defense. The case against Herman Luther, however, treats the fear of forcible homosexual attack in the context of duress.

The concepts of irresistible impulse and duress should not be confused, the former bespeaking a lack of conscious will to do the act complained of, and the latter acknowledging the will to do the act complained of but seeking to excuse it.

An interesting note in 45 S.Cal.L.Rev. 1062 (1972) traces the development of the defense of duress and points out that in the common law, compulsion by the threat of death was the keystone. Some states have provided a statutory treatment of the defense but in Michigan, the statutory treatment of the defense of duress is restricted to commercial law. M.C.L.A. § 400.1103; M.S.A. § 19.1103.

Nevertheless, duress is a well recognized defense. People v. Repke, 103 Mich. 459, 61 N.W. 861 (1895), and People v. Merhige, 212 Mich. 601, 180 N.W. 418 (1920). A successful duress defense excuses the defendant from criminal responsibility for an otherwise criminal act because the defendant was compelled to commit the act; the compulsion or duress overcomes the defendant's free will and his actions lack the required Mens rea. In this connection see 2 Mich.Criminal Jury Instructions, 311--322 (in the final draft as presented to the Michigan Supreme Court on June 10, 1975), in...

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46 cases
  • Commonwealth v. Stanley
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • April 12, 1979
    ... ... we restrict the defense to all but the most extreme ... situations ... An example of ... such a situation was advanced in People v. Wester, ... 237 Cal.App.2d 232, 46 Cal.Rptr. 699 (1965), in which the ... court hypothesized that if a prisoner was confronted with a ... Unger, 66 Ill.2d 333, 5 ... Ill.Dec. 848, 362 N.E.2d 319 (1977); State v. Boleyn, 328 ... So.2d 95 (La.1976) (by implication); People v. Luther, 394 ... Mich. 619, 232 N.W.2d 184 (1975); People v. Harmon, 53 ... Mich.App. 482, 220 N.W.2d 212 (1974), Affd., 394 Mich. 625, ... 232 N.W.2d 187 ... ...
  • U.S. v. Bailey
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • October 19, 1978
    ...by several courts in escape cases. See, e. g., People v. Unger, 66 Ill.2d 333, 5 Ill.Dec. 848, 362 N.E.2d 319 (1977); People v. Luther, 394 Mich. 619, 232 N.W.2d 184 (1975); People v. Harmon, 53 Mich.App. 482, 220 N.W.2d 212 (1974); American Law Institute, Model Penal Code §§ 2.09 (Duress),......
  • United States v. Bailey United States v. Cogdell
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • January 21, 1980
    ...jury to evaluate the credibility and meaning of "necessarily self-serving statements" and "ambiguous conduct." See People v. Luther, 394 Mich. 619, 232 N.W.2d 184 (1975); People v. Unger, 66 Ill.2d 333, 5 Ill.Dec. 848, 362 N.E.2d 319 (1977); Esquibel v. State, 91 N.M. 498, 576 P.2d 1129 Fin......
  • Spakes v. State
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
    • January 10, 1996
    ...attempt to report or surrender is not an absolute requirement for invoking a justification-type defense: Michigan, People v. Luther, 394 Mich. 619, 232 N.W.2d 184, 187 (1975) (duress) 6; South Dakota, State v. Miller, 313 N.W.2d 460, 462 (S.D.1981) (necessity). But see Id. at 463 (Wollman, ......
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4 books & journal articles
  • Trial practice
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Defending Drinking Drivers - Volume One
    • March 31, 2022
    ...might reasonably be expected to disclose the numerical division of the jury. See People v. Luther , 53 Mich. App. 648 (1974), aff’d , 394 Mich. 619 (1975). In Commonwealth v. Cameron , Slip Copy, 2011 WL 3341091 (Mass.App.Ct.), during jury deliberations, the trial judge dismissed a juror be......
  • § 23.01 General Principles
    • United States
    • Carolina Academic Press Understanding Criminal Law (CAP) 2022 Title Chapter 23 Duress
    • Invalid date
    ...Banyard v. State, 47 So. 3d 676, 681-82 (Miss. 2010); State v. Toscano, 378 A.2d 755, 760 (N.J. Sup. Ct. 1977).[10] People v. Luther, 232 N.W.2d 184, 187 (Mich. 1975).[11] State v. Guinn, 453 S.W.3d 846, 853 (Mo. Ct. App. 2014).[12] See United States v. Contento-Pachon, 723 F.2d 691, 694 (9......
  • § 23.01 GENERAL PRINCIPLES
    • United States
    • Carolina Academic Press Understanding Criminal Law (CAP) 2018 Title Chapter 23 Duress
    • Invalid date
    ...ruin" insufficient threat); People v. Ricker, 262 N.E.2d 456 (Ill. 1970) (threat of loss of job insufficient).[10] . People v. Luther, 232 N.W.2d 184, 187 (Mich. 1975).[11] . State v. Guinn, 453 S.W.3d 846, 853 (Mo. App. 2014).[12] . See United States v. Contento-Pachon, 723 F.2d 691, 694 (......
  • TABLE OF CASES
    • United States
    • Carolina Academic Press Understanding Criminal Law (CAP) 2018 Title Table of Cases
    • Invalid date
    ...309 Lund v. Commonwealth, 232 S.E.2d 745 (Va. 1977), 529, 537 Lundgren v. Mitchell, 440 F.3d 754 (6th Cir. 2006), 329 Luther, People v., 232 N.W.2d 184 (Mich. 1975), 284 Lyle, State v., 513 N.W.2d 293 (Neb. 1994), 510 Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433 (1997), 41 Lynn v. State, 765 S.E.2d 322 (G......

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