People v. Omacht, 66

Decision Date09 January 1950
Docket NumberNo. 66,66
Citation326 Mich. 505,40 N.W.2d 704
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

James E. Haggerty, Detroit, Hugh V. Williams, Detroit, of counsel, for appellant.

Stephen J. Roth, Attorney General, Edmund E. Shepherd, Solicitor General, Lansing, Daniel J. O'Hara, Assistant Attorney General, Richard B. Foster, Special Assistant Proscecuting Attorney, Lansing, for appellee.

Before the Entire Bench, except DETHMERS, BUTZEL and CARR, JJ.

NORTH, Justice.

I cannot concur in reversal. The grounds upon which Justice BUSHNELL relies for reversal are considered and disposed of correctly in People v. Hancock, 326 Mich. 471, 40 N.W.2d 689, and conviction therein affirmed. On the same record and for like reasons the conviction in the instant case should be affirmed. Such holding is in accord with our decisions, in which there was no dissent, in quite similar cases reported in People v. Burnstein, 261 Mich. 534, 246 N.W. 217; People v. DeLano and People v. Sherman, 318 Mich. 557, 28 N.W.2d 909; People v. Logie and People v. Diggs, 321 Mich. 303, 32 N.W.2d 458; People v. Fleish, 321 Mich. 443, 32 N.W.2d 700.

The first of the circumstances which my brother holds constitutes reversible error evidently got into the record by the obviously unanticipated claim of Omacht when under cross-examination by the special prosecutor that the latter, when examining Omacht in the one-man grand jury proceedings, had improperly assumed a threatening attitude toward the witness. The statement made to and answered by the witness, while somewhat objectionable in the words used, 'you know that is a deliberate lie,' was obviously accepted by the witness as a question quite equivalent to 'you know the answer just made by you is untrue, do you not?' The witness answered: 'No, it is not.' No objection was made to this incident, which occurred many days before the case was submitted to the jury. A ruling by the court was not asked at the time, nor later in a request to charge, nor was it urged as error in defendant's motion for a new trial.

'However, this court has repeatedly stated that errors will not be considered on review in the absence of objection to the prejudicial remark or comment, and that it is the duty of the opposing counsel to seek and obtain a ruling of the trial judge. People v. Goldberg, 248 Mich. 553, 227 N.W. 708.' People v. Rosa, 268 Mich. 462, 466, 256 N.W. 483, 485.

In a case strikingly like the instant case in its background, without dissent, we held: 'Remarks of special prosecuting attorney, in trial of legislators for conspiracy to corruptly influence the action of the legislature by bribery, derogatory of defense counsel in such a way as courts or juries pay little attention to held, harmless and not to require the setting aside of verdict of conviction in view of entire showing made upon the trial.' People v. Green (syllabus), 323 Mich. 128, 35 N.W.2d 142.

'In prosecution for rape where prosecuting attorney asked one of appellant's witnesses a question and witness replied he was then off the witness stand, remark of prosecutor 'Get back on the stand, Smartness,' although unnecessary, was not ground for reversal.' People v. Cleveland (syllabus), 295 Mich. 139, 294 N.W. 124.

'It is not to be presumed that jurors, in direct violation of their well-known duty, indulge in unjustifiable inferences from remarks made in the heat of trial and under provocation.' People v. Logie (syllabus), supra.

People v. Nichols, 159 Mich. 355, 124 N.W. 25, relied upon by Mr. Justice Bushnell, differs very materially from the instant case. In the cited case the prosecutor in his final argument said to the jury: 'I will say, however, upon my official oath, that I know when Mr. Cunningham told certain things upon the stand he told the truth.' Defendant's counsel promptly objected and immediately the prosecutor in substance repeated the quoted assertion. Again defendant's counsel took an exception to the prosecutor's statement. It was on such a record, to which the record in the instant case is not at all comparable, that error was found in the Nichols case.

In the case at bar subsequent to the incident under consideration testimony was taken which appears in 353 pages of the printed record, being the testimony of 42 witnesses. Lengthy arguments followed and later the charge of the court. Finally by the verdict of the jury three of the five so-called finance defendants (of which Omacht was one) were convicted and two acquitted. The record abundantly justifies Omacht's conviction. We find that the noted incident in this long and strenuous trial did not prejudice the jury and, under this record as a whole, did not constitute reversible error.

The other aspect of the record upon which Mr. Justice BUSHNELL relies for reversal is referred to and quoted in his opinion from the special prosecutor's closing argument. It need not be repeated. Admittedly the quoted flight of oratory, the like of which is not infrequently indulged in incident to arguing important cases, might well have been omitted from final summation. Obviously it had to do with matters quite outside the record, and it is fair to assume would have been excluded had timely objection been made. But it is quite far-fetched, under this record, to say that it generated prejudice which deprived defendant of a fair trial. And further, since a timely objection was not made, under the settled law of this jurisdiction, error on appeal cannot be assigned thereon.

'In order to review improper argument of the prosecuting attorney it is essential to secure a ruling of the trial court.' People v. Auerbach (syllabus), 176 Mich. 23, 141 N.W. 869, Ann.Cas.1915B, 557.

'Defendant contends there was error in the argument of the prosecuting attorney. There is nothing in the record indicating the court's attention was called to the alleged erroneous argument during the trial; that he was given any opportunity to correct the same; that any ruling was requested, or any exceptions taken to the claimed erroneous argument at the time. Under such circumstances this court will not consider the question. People v. Giddings, 159 Mich. 523, 124 N.W. 546, 18 Ann.Cas. 844; People v. Mulvaney, 171 Mich. 272, 137 N.W. 155; People v. Sartori, 168 Mich. 308, 134 N.W. 200.' People v. Goldberg, 248 Mich. 553, 227 N.W. 708, 709.

'Finally, it is claimed that appellant was prejudiced by the inflammatory argument of the prosecution to the jury. This point is not well taken as no objection thereto was raised in the trial court.' People v. Robertson, 301 Mich. 100, 106, 3 N.W.2d 26, 28.

The conviction of defendant Omacht should be affirmed.

BOYLES and SHARPE, JJ., concurred with NORTH, J.

BUSHNELL, Justice.

Defendant George W. Omacht was tried and found guilty of conspiring to corrupt the 1939 legislature of the State of Michigan. The facts are sufficiently stated in People v. Hancock, Mich., 40 N.W.2d 689 and People v. Cooper, Mich., 40 N.W.2d 708.

The controlling question is whether the defendant had a fair trial as guaranteed by the Constitution of Michigan and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Omacht was a witness before the oneman grand jury. At his trial he testified in his own behalf. During his cross-examination reference was made and quotations were read to him from his grand jury testimony. These quotations concerned his understanding of what Hemans, the State's witness-in-chief, was to do. Then the following occurred:

'What was there about my question, 'What was meant by his best influence?' that indicated anything to you about money? A. The way you behaved, led me to think that was going to be the ultimate inquiry. The way you talked. You did talk different than you are now.

'Q. How? A. You were sitting back quite a way from me and you made one of those lunges toward me.

'Mr. Sigler: You know different than that, you know that is a deliberate lie.

'The Witness: No, it is not.

'Q. You know I stood up in front of you and talked to you just as I am talking to you now, you know that is the truth? A. No.

'Q. Why did you then say when I asked that question, say no money was paid? A. I thought that was part of your question, when I gave that answer, you went back and sat down. My memory is good as to that.'

Justice Sharpe holds in the Hancock case that, without an objection by counsel, this was merely an incident 'not of sufficient importance to constitute reversible error.'

It was held to be fatal error for a prosecutor to make the following statement: 'I will say, however, upon my official oath, that I know when Mr. Cunningham told certain things upon the stand he told the truth.' In reversing, this Court said: 'It was practically...

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