Pierson v. State

Decision Date22 June 1893
Citation99 Ala. 148,13 So. 550
PartiesPIERSON v. STATE.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Appeal from circuit court, Pike county; John R. Tyson, Judge.

The appellant was indicted, together with one Will Jackson, for the murder of Robert Henderson, and convicted of murder in the second degree, and sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of 10 years. Reversed.

The testimony for the state tended to show that at a certain camp ground, in the county of Pike, a quarrel arose between the defendants Oliver Pierson, Will Jackson, and some other negroes from Brundidge, and some negroes from Troy, all of whom were on the camp grounds; that when deceased walked up to quiet the fuss, the defendant, who had a pistol in his hand, met the deceased, and, cursing him, accused the deceased of having drawn a pistol on him; that the deceased denied this, and, while they were disputing about it, Will Jackson walked up, and tried to take the pistol from the defendant, saying that it was his; that the defendant refused to surrender the pistol at first, but that, after a few words exchanged between him and Will Jackson, he gave Will Jackson the pistol, and took up a baseball bat, and, going towards the deceased, again cursed him for having drawn a pistol on him, and said "that he was a great mind to break deceased's head open," at the same time drawing the bat back as if no strike; that the defendant made a motion as if to strike the deceased, once or twice, and, while in this threatening attitude, Will Jackson shot him, after which the defendant and Will Jackson ran off. The testimony for the defendant tended to show that the defendant and Will Jackson did not have any conversation, and that the defendant gave Jackson his pistol on Jackson's demanding it, saying that it was his, and further tended to show that when Jackson did the shooting the defendant did not have a baseball bat in his hand. The written charge given by the court at the request of the state, and to the giving of which the defendant excepted was in the following language: "The court charges the jury, if several persons conspire to do an unlawful act, as to commit murder, all the members of such illegal combination are responsible for the act of each other, done in prosecution of their common purpose; and in this case, if the jury believe from the evidence that the defendant was acting in concert with Will Jackson, and that it was their common purpose and design to murder Robert Henderson, and that one of them, in pursuance of this common purpose, did murder him in this county, before the finding of this indictment, then the defendant would be responsible for the act of his accomplice, whether he shot the pistol, or whether Will Jackson shot the pistol, if the evidence shows that it was done by either."

R. L Williams, for appellant.

Wm. L. Martin, Atty. Gen., for the State.

COLEMAN J.

The defendant was tried and convicted of murder in the second degree. The first exception is to the action of the court in excusing the juror Cowert, who had been drawn and summoned on the special venire. When his name was called he stated to the court that he was a member of the police of the city of Troy, and on active duty, and asked to be excused from service as a juror. The court excused him, and the defendant excepted. Section 4335 of the Criminal Code is as follows: "The court may excuse from service any person summoned as a juror, if he is disqualified or exempt, or for any other reasonable or proper cause, to be determined by the court." We are of opinion that the excuse given by the juror Cowert, that he was a policeman of the city of Troy, on active duty, was a "reasonable or proper cause," within the meaning of the statute. His duties as a policeman could not be attended to while serving as a juror. The case comes within the rule declared in Fariss v. State, 85 Ala. 1, 4 South. Rep. 679, and Maxwell v. State, 89 Ala. 150, 7 South. Rep. 824. In the case of Phillips v. State, 68 Ala. 469, the juror claimed to be exempt from jury duty under the provisions of a special statute, and the trial court so held. This court held that the facts did not show he belonged to the class exempted by the statute. Section 4335 of the Code was not considered in that case, and the juror was not excused under its provisions.

The second exception is to the giving charge No. 2 for the prosecution. The objection to this charge is that the jury were instructed, "if they believe from the evidence that the defendant was acting in concert with Will Jackson," etc. The precise objection is that the degree of proof required by the charge is too low. Being a criminal trial the law requires that the proof must satisfy the jury "beyond a reasonable doubt," to authorize a conviction. The proposition is certainly correct. A jury should not convict unless they are satisfied from the evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, of the defendant's guilt. Section 2756 of the Code declares that "charges moved for by either party *** must be given or refused in the terms in which they are written *** and may be taken by the jury with them on retirement." Certainly, the charge, as given, is not the law. It does not appear anywhere in the record that the court instructed the jury as to the measure of proof required, in criminal cases, to authorize a conviction. In the charge given, they are instructed "that, if they believe from the evidence," that is sufficient. The jury had this charge "with them on their retirement." The jury are bound by the instruction of the court. They may have believed the facts predicated in the charge, and yet have not been satisfied of their truth, beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no presumption of error without injury, in a criminal case, in this state. We are aware that it has been held differently in other courts, and that the giving of such a charge merely calls for an explanatory charge, to the effect that "to believe from the evidence" requires the jury "to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt." People v. Sheldon, 68 Cal. 434, 438, 9 P. 457. We cannot consent to the doctrine. If a court should charge a jury in a civil case that they must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of any...

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  • Stokley v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • December 7, 1950
    ...122, 62 So. 1020; Smith v. State, 8 Ala.App. 187, 62 So. 575; Williams v. State, 81 Ala. 1, 1 So. 179, 60 Am.Rep. 133; Pierson v. State, 99 Ala. 148, 13 So. 550; Evans v. State, 109 Ala. 11, 19 So. There was no error in overruling defendant's objection to the question propounded by the soli......
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    ...109 Ala. 51, 20 So. 81; McLeroy's Case, 120 Ala. 274, 25 So. 247; Amos' Case, 83 Ala. 1, 3 So. 749, 3 Am. St. Rep. 682; Pierson's Case, 99 Ala. 148, 13 So. 550. 20 assumed that all the evidence of conspiracy was circumstantial evidence. The declaration, if made by the defendant, "We've come......
  • Hyde v. State
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    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • January 30, 1998
    ...clear to the judicial mind that there is no evidence tending to bring the offense within some particular degree.' Pierson v. State, 99 Ala. 148, 153, 13 So. 550 (1892), approved in Williams v. State, 251 Ala. 397, 399, 39 So.2d 37 "`Phelps v. State, 435 So.2d 158, 163 (Ala.Cr.App.1983).'" H......
  • Fisher v. State
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    ...clear to the judicial mind that there is no evidence tending to bring the offense within some particular degree.' " Pierson v. State, 99 Ala. 148, 153, 13 So. 550 (1892), approved in Williams v. State, 251 Ala. 397, 399, 39 So.2d 37 "Phelps v. State, 435 So.2d 158, 163 (Ala.Cr.App.1983)." "......
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