People v. Ramsey, Docket Nos. 67269

Citation71 A.L.R.4th 661,375 N.W.2d 297,422 Mich. 500
Decision Date06 December 1985
Docket NumberDocket Nos. 67269,68636
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Bruce RAMSEY, Defendant-Appellant. PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Gary BOYD, Defendant-Appellant. 422 Mich. 500, 375 N.W.2d 297, 71 A.L.R.4th 661, 54 U.S.L.W. 2218
CourtSupreme Court of Michigan

John D. O'Hair, Pros. Atty., County of Wayne, Edward Reilly Wilson, Chief Appellate Asst. Pros. Atty., Timothy A. Baughman, Principal Atty., Research, Training and Appeals, Detroit, Wayne County Prosecutor Office, Detroit, for plaintiff-appellee.

Lauck, Leto & Cavanaugh, P.C. by Frederick W. Lauck, Troy, State Appellate Defender Office by Rolf E. Berg, Asst. Defender, Norris J. Thomas, Jr., Chief Deputy Defender, Detroit, Attorneys for defendant-appellant B. Ramsey.

John F. Salan, President, Pros. Attys., Ass'n of Michigan, Lansing, for amicus curiae.

Arthur J. Tarnow, Detroit, Mark Granzotto, Associate Counsel, Detroit, for Michigan Psychiatric Society, Branch of American Psychiatric Society, amicus curiae.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Louis J. Caruso, Sol. Gen., Michael A. Nickerson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Atty. Gen. Pros. Attys. Appellate Service, Lansing, for Atty. Gen., amicus curiae.

State Appellate Defender Office by Rolf E. Berg, Asst. Defender, Detroit, for defendant-appellant G. Boyd.

BRICKLEY, Justice.

These cases involve the constitutionality of M.C.L. Sec. 768.36; M.S.A. Sec. 28.1059, the statute which introduced the verdict of guilty but mentally ill to this state. In both cases, it is asserted that the guilty but mentally ill verdict violates principles of due process of law. We hold the statute to be constitutional.


Defendant Bruce Ramsey was charged with first-degree murder, M.C.L. Sec. 750.316; M.S.A. Sec. 28.548, as a result of the death of his wife. Ramsey had first choked her, and then stabbed her thirty-two times. At trial, he raised the defense of insanity, claiming he believed that he was exorcising a demon from his wife by stabbing her and that she would return to life once the demon was removed.

In the trial court, defendant moved that the verdict of guilty but mentally ill be held unconstitutional and that the jury not be instructed on that verdict. According to defendant, he opted for a bench trial because his motion was denied.

Several witnesses, including Ramsey himself, testified in support of his claim of insanity. Defendant was portrayed as the product of a Southern fundamentalist religious family who had strayed from the church by drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, and having an extra-marital affair.

A few months before the killing, Ramsey visited his mother in Kentucky. She gave him a pamphlet entitled "Defeated Enemies," which concerned demons and demon-possessed people. Both Ramsey and a woman by the name of Cross testified that that weekend, Ramsey, while engaged in sexual intercourse with Cross, suffered a psychotic episode; Ramsey thought that Cross was a devil. Ramsey fled the room. When later found by Cross, Ramsey insisted that they return to their room to pray, which they did.

Ramsey testified regarding an episode the day before the killing. He found in the clogged choke of his truck a sign from God that he should stay with his wife. He also found messages from God in the lyrics of popular songs.

The day of the killing, Ramsey, after a full day of work, called his mother in Kentucky. He was excited; his mother described him as exuberant over his "return to God."

As for the killing itself, which was witnessed by Ramsey's children, who testified at trial, the victim and Ramsey had apparently argued. One of Ramsey's children testified that the victim came to the child's room crying. Ramsey entered the room and said, "Walk." The victim left the room and locked herself in the bathroom. Ramsey broke down the bathroom door.

Ramsey testified that he had attempted to choke, and then to stab, the demon out of his wife. Ramsey's son testified that he heard Ramsey say, "Die demon, die." When Ramsey realized that the victim was dead and was not returning to life, he placed her body in bed, crawled in next to her, and stabbed himself in the chest. Found in that position by the police (the children had fled to a neighbor's home), Ramsey was taken to a hospital. There, he made statements to family and friends to the effect that he was "screwed up" and that his wife "wasn't supposed to die." Hospital psychiatrists diagnosed Ramsey as acutely psychotic upon admission.

Psychiatrists called by the prosecution and the defense differed over whether Ramsey was mentally ill or insane at the time of the killing. Dr. Emanuel Tanay testified for the defense that Ramsey was acutely psychotic and legally insane at the time of the killing. A lengthy taped interview between Ramsey and Dr. Tanay was played to the jury. Dr. Philip Margolis, however, testified for the prosecution that Ramsey was neither mentally ill nor insane at the time of the crime. Dr. Margolis stated that Ramsey's behavior, rationalizing the killing after it had taken place, was consistent with an attempt to escape responsibility for the crime.

Dr. Irving Edgar, also testifying for the prosecution, initially testified that Ramsey was not psychotic at the time of the killing and that it was possible that the demon story was fabricated. On cross-examination, however, Dr. Edgar testified that he was not sure if Ramsey knew right from wrong when he was choking his wife and that Ramsey was probably psychotic following the choking.

The trial court found Ramsey guilty of the crime of second-degree murder, but mentally ill. Following a remand to the trial court for further factual findings. 89 Mich.App. 468, 280 N.W.2d 565 (1979), the Court of Appeals affirmed Ramsey's conviction by way of an unpublished opinion per curiam. This Court granted Ramsey's application for leave to appeal. 414 Mich. 864 (1982).

Defendant Gary Boyd was charged with armed robbery, M.C.L. Sec. 750.529; M.S.A. Sec. 28.797, and assault with intent to commit robbery while armed, M.C.L. Sec. 750.89; M.S.A. Sec. 28.284, for conduct at the home of his former girlfriend. Boyd, after being admitted to the home of Ruby Hughes, suddenly and without provocation grabbed her around the neck, held a knife to her throat, and demanded money. He led Hughes upstairs and assaulted two other women, robbing one of the other women of a few dollars. Boyd then dropped his knife and fled after stating that he knew that Hughes was going to shoot him in the back.

At trial, Boyd did not dispute that the events occurred. He presented an insanity defense. He related an extensive psychiatric history, including several hospitalizations, with one hospitalization exceeding eighteen months. Regarding the events of the crime, Boyd testified, "I don't know. One minute we was talking and the next minute, before I know it, I had a knife around her side."

Boyd presented three witnesses as to his mental state. Dr. Bruce Danto, a psychiatrist testified that defendant was schizophrenic, psychotic, and insane at the time of the crime. Boyd's mother and his sister testified to the effect that Boyd had been exhibiting strange behavior patterns for years and that he was alternately violent and paranoic, a compulsive gambler, and would sometimes see and hear nonexistent things.

Dr. Steven Bank, a psychologist, testified for the prosecution that Boyd was mentally ill, but not insane. He noted that defendant had denied that the crime had occurred when he was arrested. This denial, according to Dr. Bank, indicated a purposeful behavior inconsistent with insanity. He further testified that defendant had described himself as a "good con-man."

The jury returned a verdict of guilty but mentally ill to both charged counts and the Court of Appeals affirmed Boyd's convictions in an unpublished opinion per curiam. This Court granted Boyd's application for leave to appeal. 415 Mich. 851 (1982).


Both Ramsey and Boyd contend that the guilty but mentally ill verdict denied them the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Their arguments, however, are subtly different. Ramsey argues that the danger of jury compromise due to the existence of the guilty but mentally ill verdict caused him to waive his right to a jury trial, and, therefore, he should be allowed to challenge the constitutionality of the verdict. Boyd's argument is more straightforward. He contends that the submission of the guilty but mentally ill verdict to the jury encouraged the jury to return that verdict as a compromise between the verdict of guilty and the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. We will treat the arguments of both defendants jointly.

A fair trial is a right guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975). Therefore, our task is to decide if the guilty but mentally ill verdict violates principles of fairness by, according to defendants, deflecting a jury's attention from the issues of guilt or innocence by adding an irrelevant verdict which brings the risk of impermissible jury compromise. 1 We must stress, however, that we are not concerned with the wisdom of the verdict. Arguments that a statute is unwise or results in bad policy should be addressed to the Legislature. Our concern here is only whether the statute is invalid because it denies criminal defendants a fair trial. 2

M.C.L. Sec. 768.36(1); M.S.A. Sec. 28.1059(1) provides:

"If the defendant asserts a defense of insanity in compliance with section 20a [MCL 768.20a; MSA 28.1043(1) ], the defendant may be found 'guilty but mentally ill' if, after trial, the trier of fact finds all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

"(a) That the defendant is guilty of...

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