People v. Morrin, Docket No. 4757

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Writing for the CourtLEVIN
Citation31 Mich.App. 301,187 N.W.2d 434
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Leslie Taylor MORRIN, Defendant-Appellant
Docket NumberNo. 2,Docket No. 4757
Decision Date16 March 1971

Page 434

187 N.W.2d 434
31 Mich.App. 301
PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Leslie Taylor MORRIN, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket No. 4757.
Court of Appeals of Michigan, Division No. 2.
March 16, 1971.
Rehearing Denied May 6, 1971.
Released for Publication June 10, 1971.
Leave to Appeal Denied Aug. 3, 1971.

[31 Mich.App. 306]

Page 436

Daniel L. Sullivan, Monroe, for defendant-appellant.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Robert A. Derengoski, Sol. Gen., James J. Rostash, Pros. Atty., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before FITZGERALD, P.J., and LEVIN and T. M. BURNS, JJ.

LEVIN, Judge.

Leslie Taylor Morrin was convicted of first-degree murder 1 by a jury in Monroe County Circuit Court. At the trial he testified that he killed the victim in self-defense. His evidence, coupled with the jury's unquestioned right to reject the claim of self-defense, provided sufficient evidence to sustain a verdict finding that he committed the crime of second-degree murder by killing another human being with malice aforethought. 2

The statutory offense of which Morrin was convicted was, however, first-degree, not second-degree, murder. Although evidence that a homicide was committed with malice aforethought will support a conviction of second-degree murder, to convict an accused person of first-degree murder the people must additionally prove that the murder was committed with willfulness, deliberation, and premeditation. We hold that the evidence presented in this case is not sufficient to support a reasonable inference that Morrin killed his victim with the requisite deliberation and premeditation.

[31 Mich.App. 307] There is, however, no need to order a new trial. The jury's verdict, read in the light of the judge's charge, constituted an express finding that the homicide was intentional and neither justifiable nor excusable nor committed under circumstances of mitigation, and hence that it was committed with malice aforethought. Since a conviction of second-degree murder is proper upon such a finding, we remand for

Page 437

entry of a judgment convicting Morrin of second-degree murder. Upon conviction of first-degree murder a life sentence is mandatory. A defendant convicted of second-degree murder may, but need not, be sentenced to a life term. Morrin shall, therefore, be resentenced.

I.

Morrin killed William Abell, a 53-year-old unmarried male. Abell died from some combination of eight blows to the head inflicted by Morrin with a large pair of tongs.

There were no witnesses to the killing or the events that preceded it. Morrin's testimony is the only affirmative evidence concerning the circumstances of the killing.

Morrin was 37 years old at the time of the killing. He was a millwright by trade. On March 27, 1967, at approximately 8:30 A.M., he completed seventeen hours of work in Oregon, Ohio. He testified that after eating breakfast he went to a union hall in nearby Toledo, Ohio, to talk to the union's business agent. Finding that the agent was not there, he stopped at a nearby bar, where he periodically phoned the union hall to see if the business agent had returned. Morrin drank seven or eight glasses of beer before 1:00 P.M., when he learned the agent was gone for the day.

[31 Mich.App. 308] While sitting in the bar, Morrin was approached by Abell, a complete stranger. Abell asked for a ride to Erie, Michigan, which was near Morrin's home in Monroe, Michigan. After Morrin learned that the business agent was unavailable, he and Abell left together.

When they reached Erie, Abell asked to be taken to a specific location. Morrin agreed, and proceeded at Abell's direction to traverse a number of quite remote, unpaved roads. Ultimately the car became mired in a mudhole. Abell alighted to push while Morrin attempted to extricate the vehicle by rocking the wheels. Their joint efforts succeeded, and the car was freed, whereupon Abell reentered the car.

At this point, Morrin testified, Abell pulled out a knife. Grabbing Morrin by the hair, he held the knife to his throat. Morrin offered to let Abell have all the money in his possession. Abell said that Morrin would first have to commit an oral sexual act upon him.

With Abell still holding the knife at Morrin's throat, they slid out of the car, whereupon Morrin was forced to assume a kneeling position, facing Abell. Abell directed Morrin to remove his (Abell's) trousers, but when Morrin did not move Abell partially removed them himself. Abell then commanded Morrin to commit the sexual act. When Morrin still did not move, Abell grasped him by the back of the head to pull him forward.

Morrin testified that he then struck Abell in the testicles. Rising to his feet, Morrin started to flee before he saw Abell advancing on him with the knife. Morrin then grabbed a large pair of tongs from the back seat of the car. (The tongs apparently were one of the tools of his trade and he customarily took them on trips to and from work.) [31 Mich.App. 309] A struggle then ensued and the two men exchanged blows. Finally, as Morrin swung the tongs, they entered Abell's rectum. Abell fell forward slightly and Morrin struck him several more times with the tongs. When Abell fell to the ground, Morrin seized Abell's knife and threw it away. (The knife was not found.) 3 Morrin then ran to his car and drove away. He drove straight home, stopping once at a gasoline station. He told the attendant that he had been in a scuffle.

Page 438

Upon reaching home, he was in a distraught and hysterical state. His wife called his sister who immediately came over. Morrin said that he had hurt someone, perhaps killed him. He was crying and somewhat incoherent. He kept repeating the words, 'if he hadn't disgusted me so.' He took his sister out to the car to convince her that he was telling the truth. His sister washed the blood off the car and also washed the tongs which were in the back seat.

Morrin and his sister drove back to the place of the fight to see whether Abell was alive. The sister drove. It took them some time to find the exact place. Morrin alone got out of the car and found that Abell was, indeed, dead. They then returned home. It was agreed that they would do nothing immediately but would take some action the next morning.

The sister then returned to her home and phoned an attorney who then phoned the police. The police picked up the sister who took them to Abell's body. Morrin said that the next morning, without having [31 Mich.App. 310] heard from his sister, he decided to turn himself in. He met the police on the way to his sister's home.

This was substantially the evidence upon which the case went to the jury. The prosecution introduced numerous photographs of the deceased taken at the scene. Morrin produced two character witnesses. Throughout the trial, the prosecutor repeatedly emphasized the bizarre rectal wound suffered by Abell; he claimed that the wound was inflicted after Abell was already dead.

The jury was instructed on the elements of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and manslaughter, as well as self-defense.

II.

Homicide, the killing of one human being by another, may be innocent or criminal. There are two categories of innocent homicide; they are called justifiable homicide and excusable homicide. Homicide is 'justifiable' if it is authorized (E.g., self-defense) or commanded (E.g., execution of a death sentence) by law. Homicide is 'excusable' if the death is the result of an accident and the actor was not criminally negligent. 4

A person who kills another is guilty of the crime of murder if the homicide is committed with malice aforethought. 5 Malice aforethought is the intention to kill, actual or implied, 6 under circumstances which do not constitute excuse or justification or mitigate [31 Mich.App. 311] the degree of the offense to manslaughter. 7 The intent to kill may be implied where the actor actually intends to inflict great bodily harm or the natural

Page 439

tendency of his behavior is to cause death or great bodily harm. 8 (The common-law felony-murder rule is an example of implied intent or implied malice aforethought.) 9

Thus, as 'malice aforethought' is now defined, a killing may be murder even though the actor harbored no hatred or ill will against the victim 10 and [31 Mich.App. 312] even though he 'acted on the spur of the moment.' 11 Whatever may be the philological origin of the words 'malice aforethought,' today 'each word has a different significance in

Page 440

legal usage than in ordinary conversation.' 12

The nature of malice aforethought is the source of much of the confusion that attends the law of homicide. 13 The cause of this confusion has been the [31 Mich.App. 313] evolution of malice aforethought from an independently significant element of murder to a 'term of art' 14 whose significance is largely historical and procedural.

The precise roots of malice aforethought are uncertain. 15 Common-law courts spoke of 'malice prepense' as early as the 13th century. 16 The requirement that malice aforethought be established in all murder prosecutions represented the common law's recognition that a rational legal system will punish certain homicides (for example, those that are intentional) while excusing others (accidental homicides, for example).

From the beginning malice aforethought was defined principally in functional terms. We know [31 Mich.App. 314] what it did; it both distinguished criminal from innocent homicide and murder from manslaughter. Yet what it was, the precise state of mind which it described, eluded symmetrical definition. 17

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The common-law courts were faced with a difficult problem: malice aforethought was a requisite element[31 Mich.App. 315] of murder, but one so elusive that in many cases it resisted direct proof. Their solution was to create a presumption of malice. As early as the 16th century proof that the accused person killed the victim gave rise to a 'presumption' that...

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194 practice notes
  • Marsack v. Howes, No. 00-10395-BC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • 14 Enero 2004
    ...in this case, requires a finding that the defendant committed a homicide with premeditation and deliberation. See People v. Morrin, 31 Mich.App. 301, 328, 187 N.W.2d 434, 449 (1971). "To premeditate is to think about beforehand; to deliberate is to measure and evaluate the major facets of a......
  • Davenport v. MacLaren, No. 17-2267
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 15 Septiembre 2020
    ...and second-degree murder, which requires that "first-degree murder be committed with premeditation and deliberation." People v. Morrin , 31 Mich.App. 301, 187 N.W.2d 434, 448–49 (1971). In sum, as the majority opinion explicitly noted, the Supreme Court's shackling jurisprudence was the exc......
  • People v. Furman, Docket No. 84528
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • 6 Mayo 1987
    ...evaluate the major facets of a choice or problem. People v. Vail, 393 Mich. 460, 468, 227 N.W.2d 535 (1975), quoting People v. Morrin, 31 Mich.App. 301, 187 N.W.2d 434 (1971). Premeditation and deliberation characterize a thought process undisturbed by hot blood. Vail, supra. While the mini......
  • People v. Aaron, Docket Nos. 57376
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 22 Diciembre 1980
    ..."(t) he nature of malice aforethought is the source of much of the confusion that attends the law of homicide." People v. Morrin, 31 Mich.App. 301, 310-311, 187 N.W.2d 434 (1971), lv. den. 385 Mich. 775 (1971). See, also, Moreland, Law of Homicide (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1952), pp. 20......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
194 cases
  • Marsack v. Howes, No. 00-10395-BC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • 14 Enero 2004
    ...in this case, requires a finding that the defendant committed a homicide with premeditation and deliberation. See People v. Morrin, 31 Mich.App. 301, 328, 187 N.W.2d 434, 449 (1971). "To premeditate is to think about beforehand; to deliberate is to measure and evaluate the major facets of a......
  • Davenport v. MacLaren, No. 17-2267
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 15 Septiembre 2020
    ...and second-degree murder, which requires that "first-degree murder be committed with premeditation and deliberation." People v. Morrin , 31 Mich.App. 301, 187 N.W.2d 434, 448–49 (1971). In sum, as the majority opinion explicitly noted, the Supreme Court's shackling jurisprudence was the exc......
  • People v. Furman, Docket No. 84528
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • 6 Mayo 1987
    ...evaluate the major facets of a choice or problem. People v. Vail, 393 Mich. 460, 468, 227 N.W.2d 535 (1975), quoting People v. Morrin, 31 Mich.App. 301, 187 N.W.2d 434 (1971). Premeditation and deliberation characterize a thought process undisturbed by hot blood. Vail, supra. While the mini......
  • People v. Aaron, Docket Nos. 57376
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 22 Diciembre 1980
    ..."(t) he nature of malice aforethought is the source of much of the confusion that attends the law of homicide." People v. Morrin, 31 Mich.App. 301, 310-311, 187 N.W.2d 434 (1971), lv. den. 385 Mich. 775 (1971). See, also, Moreland, Law of Homicide (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1952), pp. 20......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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