Roberts v. People

Decision Date05 January 1870
Citation19 Mich. 401
CourtMichigan Supreme Court
PartiesM. Henry Roberts v. The People
Heard October 15, 1870

Error to Calhoun Circuit.

Information presented to the Circuit Court for the County of Calhoun by the prosecuting attorney of that county, charging M. Henry Roberts, the plaintiff in error, with an assault upon Charles E. Greble, with intent to commit the crime of murder. The defendant was convicted on the trial, and the case now comes before this Court upon the bill of exceptions settled and signed by the Circuit Judge.

Upon the trial, to prove the issue on the part of the people evidence was given tending to show that the defendant and one Greble met in the city of Battle Creek, on or about the 10th of March, 1868, between eight and eleven o'clock in the forenoon; that Greble asked defendant when he was going to bring the rest of the wood down; that defendant replied that he had brought all that he was going to, that he had agreed to bring six cords; that Greble replied that only four or four-and-a-half cords had been brought; that defendant said he measured it when he drew it, and if Greble wanted to measure it, he ought to have come and measured it; that Greble said if defendant did not bring the wood he would sue him, but defendant said he would do nothing about it, and the parties separated.

"That two months prior to this conversation, Greble had sold defendant a cutter, to be paid for, $ 13 in cash and balance in six cords of wood, to be delivered in Battle Creek; that shortly after the purchase of the cutter the defendant informed Greble that he had got the wood all out and piled on the roadside, and wanted Greble to go up and measure it, as he did not want to re-pile it when it was delivered; that Greble declined to go and measure it, saying he would trust the defendant to do so:"

"That on the said 10th day of March, about 1 p. m., the defendant came into Mabley's store at Battle Creek, were Greble was employed as a clerk, and seemed to be angry at Greble; that one J. H. Stone, who was in company with Greble, asked Greble what the trouble was, and was informed by Greble of the conversation in the forenoon; that Roberts then said that Greble had insulted him two or three times about wood, and that he wanted him never to speak to him about it again, and if he did, he would be sorry for it, or he would fix him, or words to that effect:

"That Greble then told defendant that he was sorry if he had insulted him, and asked him when he had done so; that defendant replied that he, Greble, had hallooed at him about the wood, and dunned him in public, and when he did not owe him, and that it was an insult; that Greble informed defendant that he had procured a summons to issue against him for not delivering the balance of the wood:

"That at about six o'clock p. m. on the same day, said Greble was in said store, in the act of making change for a customer, when the defendant came into the store in a hurried and excited manner, and walked up to within eight or ten feet of Greble and drew a revolver and fired a shot at him without speaking; that on the firing of the shot Greble started for the defendant, when he fired a second shot, and while in the act of firing the third shot, Greble seized him, and the load went into the ceiling of the store overhead; that the shots were fired rapidly but none of them took effect; that defendant was immediately thrown down, disarmed, secured and arrested, when he said if he had got one more shot he would have fixed him; that up to the day on which this assault occurred the parties had been on friendly terms:

"That between the second interview between Greble and the defendant and the assault, the defendant complained of the insult and made threats against Greble and against the store, saying he would clean out the shanty:

"That the defendant, immediately after his arrest, was taken to prison by one Pettee, who stayed with him until morning; that on being put into prison he fell into a deep sleep, from which Pettee was unable to arouse him until about one o'clock, when efforts to arouse him were successful, and from that time to three o'clock, it was impossible to say whether he was in possession of his mental faculties; but that at three o'clock he was in possession of them; but that prior to that time, he did not seem to be in full possession of his mental faculties:

"That on being asked if he knew what he was in prison for or what he had been doing, he replied with apparent truth that he did not:

"That he was told by his attendant, Pettee, that he was there for shooting a man, and asked if he knew who it was, and after thinking a few minutes he said he did not, and that he could not think of any one unless it was Greble; he was then informed he had hit upon the right man; defendant then said that Greble had insulted him, and that he first thought he would go home, but he got to drinking, and then he thought he would send to Chicago and get a man to come and whip him, but after that he could not remember anything."

The people then rested, and the defendant "gave evidence tending to show that the mother of the defendant was living and was insane, with lucid intervals, and has been so for five years last past, and is now 56 years of age:

"That in her lucid intervals she was a kind and quiet woman, but that paroxysms of insanity were brought on by any excitement and that she was then very violent toward her family and friends, and that defendant's maternal grandfather had died insane:

"That prior to and since said assault he had borne a good character."

And the defendant further "gave evidence tending to show that on one occasion when two ordinary doses or drinks of whisky were administered to him for neuralgia, he was thereby deprived of the use of his mental faculties, and became ungovernable, and insisted that he must go to New York immediately, where he had formerly lived, although he had not contemplated going there before he took the whisky:

"That at the time of firing said shots the defendant was not in possession of his mental faculties, and did not know what he was doing, and that he was in this mental condition from some hours previous to the assault until three o'clock the next morning:

"That the disease of insanity was hereditary, and that in families where it was hereditary it might lie dormant in an individual member of the family for years, and then manifest itself; and that intoxicating drinks and exciting altercations were prominent and usual causes of its development; and that it was more likely to be hereditary in the maternal than the paternal side."

After the defendant had rested, the said People further, by the way of rebutting the defense, "gave evidence tending to show that the defendant was deprived of the use of his mental faculties at and before and after the assault by his own voluntary intoxication."

The cause was then argued to the Court and jury, and the said defendant, by his counsel, requested the Circuit Judge to charge the jury as follows:

"1. If the jury find that the defendant, at the time of the assault had, by drinking intoxicating liquors, made himself incapable mentally of entertaining the intent to kill, then he is not guilty unless he had formed the intent to kill when mentally capable of entertaining it.

"2. In this case the act of shooting is an innocent act, unless done with a corrupt and malicious motive, and in such a case the jury may presume that from intoxication there was a want of criminal intent. The question is, did he know what he was about? The law depends on the answer to this question. If he did, he is guilty. If he did not, he is not guilty.

"3. The nature and essence of the crime charged in the cause depends upon the particular state and condition of the defendant's mind at the time of the assault; and drunkenness, as a matter of fact, effecting such state and condition of the mind, is a proper subject for consideration and inquiry by the jury. The question is, what was the mental status?

"4. In order to convict, the jury must find either that the defendant was in possession of his mental faculties and entertained an intent to kill when the assault was made, or that he had formed this intent before he lost control of his faculties.

"5. When a man becomes voluntarily drunk, there is a wrongful intent, and if, while too far gone to have any further intent he does a wrongful act, the intent to drink coalesces with the act done while drunk, and for this combination of act and intent he is criminally liable. The application of this rule to the case on hand would be that the drunkenness is no excuse for the assault, but if defendant is charged with a criminal intent accompanying the assault, this could not exist if he was too drunk to entertain it. The wrongful intent in drinking does not supply or aid the proof of an intent to kill.

"6. That if the jury shall find from the evidence that the respondent was afflicted with an hereditary predisposition to insanity, which was aroused and called into action by the stimulus he drank, so that he was at the time of the assault temporarily insane, as contra-distinguished from the ordinary effect of drunkenness, then he was excusable in law from any criminal intent to commit the crime charged."

But the Circuit Judge refused to so charge as to each of said requests; to which refusal the defendant excepted.

The Judge then instructed said jury as follows:

"Should you find the fact to be that the defendant made the assault alleged in the manner and with the instrument as charged in the information, and with the provocation only of the words shown to have been used by the party assaulted, the case of the prosecution is sustained, and the defendant...

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130 cases
  • People v. Whitfield
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • February 28, 1994
    ...voluntarily puts himself into a condition to have no control of his actions, must be held to intend the consequences.' " (Roberts v. The People (1870) 19 Mich. 401, 416, quoting People v. Garbutt (1868) 17 Mich. 9, 19.) "[I]t is argued that, because intoxication produces a state of mind tha......
  • People v. Langworthy, Docket Nos. 65320
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • December 23, 1982
    ...the crime charged also involved a specific intent." People v. Guillett, 342 Mich. 1, 6, 69 N.W.2d 140 (1955). See, also, Roberts v. People, 19 Mich. 401 (1870). Thus, if a crime is determined to require only a general intent, the defendant's voluntary intoxication during the commission of a......
  • Stuebgen v. State, 4325
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 12, 1976
    ...reasons given for our conclusion. We are well aware and in full accord with that doctrine which is well expressed in the case of Roberts v. People, 19 Mich. 401, cited by counsel, as follows: 'When a statute makes an offense to consist of an act combined with a particular intent, that inten......
  • People v. Garcia, 55926
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • December 7, 1976
    ...30 Mich. 16 (1874). Another problem with some of the cases is that the crime charged was not a homicide. An example is Roberts v. People, 19 Mich. 401 (1870), which involved an assault with intent to commit murder. In hopes of ending the confusion and on the authority in Potter and Scott, w......
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4 books & journal articles
  • Just say no excuse: the rise and fall of the intoxication defense.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 87 No. 2, January 1997
    • January 1, 1997
    ...Initially, a defendant's responsibility for his conduct was an irrebuttable presumption. See, for example, Roberts v. People, 19 Mich. 401 (1870), in which the court stated: He must be held to have purposely blinded his moral perceptions, and set his will free from the control of reason -- ......
  • § 24.05 VOLUNTARY INTOXICATION: INSANITY
    • United States
    • Carolina Academic Press Understanding Criminal Law (CAP) 2018 Title Chapter 24 Intoxication
    • Invalid date
    ...The definition of "insanity" varies by jurisdiction. See § 25.04[C], infra.[60] . 1 Hale, Note 23, supra, at *32.[61] . Roberts v. People, 19 Mich. 401, 422 (1870); see also Townsend v. State, 45 N.E.3d 821. 828 (Ind. App. 2015) (" 'Temporary mental incapacity, when induced by involuntary i......
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    • United States
    • Carolina Academic Press Understanding Criminal Law (CAP) 2022 Title Chapter 24 Intoxication
    • Invalid date
    ...The definition of "insanity" varies by jurisdiction. See § 25.04[C], infra.[60] 1 Hale, Note 23, supra, at *32.[61] Roberts v. People, 19 Mich. 401, 422 (1870); see also Afzal v. State, 559 S.W.3d 204, 215 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2018) ("One who voluntarily . . . ingests a substance should do ......
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    • Carolina Academic Press Understanding Criminal Law (CAP) 2018 Title Table of Cases
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    ...Ct. App. 1999), 287 Ritchey, State v., 573 P.2d 973 (Kan. 1977), 502 Rizzo, People v., 158 N.E. 888 (N.Y. 1927), 374 Roberts v. People, 19 Mich. 401 (1870), 310 Roberts v. State, 273 S.W.3d 322 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008), 122 Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962) , 55, 94, 95, 304 Robinso......

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