Robinson v. State

Decision Date27 April 1915
Citation68 So. 649,69 Fla. 521
PartiesROBINSON v. STATE.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

On Petition for Rehearing, June 2, 1915.

Error to Circuit Court, Columbia County; M. F. Horne, Judge.

Carrie Robinson was convicted of murder, and brings error. Affirmed.

Syllabus by the Court

SYLLABUS

Where the language of an indictment for murder in the first degree is clear enough to enable the jury to easily understand it and is not so vague as to mislead the accused and embarrass her in the preparation of her defense or expose her to substantial danger of another prosecution for the same offense, the indictment, if not otherwise defective, should not be quashed.

An indictment for murder in the first degree is not defective for failure to allege that the defendant administered to the deceased 'a mortal wound' or 'mortal injury' or 'mortal sickness,' where the language of the indictment sets up a plain, direct, and certain state of facts constituting the crime, from which the connection between the facts alleged as the cause of death and the death itself appears.

Where the language of an indictment is sufficiently certain to enable an innocent person to prepare for trial, and furnishes the accused with reasonable information of what he is called upon to answer by setting forth the constituent elements of the crime charged, it cannot be maintained that the accused is not apprised of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.

A member of the bar privately employed by citizens interested in the suppression of crime may, with the consent of the state attorney and the court, be permitted to participate in the prosecution of a criminal cause in the circuit courts of this state, as assistant to the state attorney.

Premeditation is an essential element of the crime of murder. Its existence may be inferred from the circumstances of the case. Where a woman is charged with the murder of her infant child, and the evidence tends to show that it was destroyed immediately upon its birth, evidence of the woman's intention or desire before the birth of the child to produce an abortion is admissible as tending to show the existence of a motive for the destruction of the infant and of a premeditated design to destroy it.

A verdict will not be set aside as against the evidence where there is evidence to support it, and where it does not appear that the jury were not governed by the evidence.

Where an instruction is considered in connection with other instructions upon the same subject, or the entire charge, and is found to be free from the defects complained of in the assignment of error, the assignment will fail.

COUNSEL J. B. Hodges, of Lake City, for plaintiff in error.

T. F West, Atty. Gen., and C. O. Andrews, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.

OPINION

ELLIS J.

Carrie Robinson, a white woman, was indicted for the murder of her infant child, and was found guilty of murder in the first degree and recommended to mercy. She was sentenced to imprisonment in the state prison at hard labor for the period of her natural life.

A motion was made to quash the indictment, which motion was overruled, and such order is assigned as error. The motion contains ten grounds, but only the fifth and ninth grounds are argued; the others being expressly abandoned. The fifth ground of the motion is as follows:

'(5) Because the said indictment fails to allege the manner of the death of the deceased.'

And the ninth ground is as follows:

'(9) Because said indictment fails to show that deceased received a mortal wound or injury at the hands of defendant whereby death was caused.'

The indictment, omitting the venue, is as follows:

'In the name of the state of Florida, the grand jurors of the state of Florida, duly chosen, impaneled, and sworn diligently to inquire and true presentment make in and for the body of the county of Columbia, upon their oath present that Carrie Robinson, late of said county, on the 13th day of April, A. D. 1914, in the county and state aforesaid, with force and arms, in and upon a certain child then recently born of the said Carrie Robinson, and not named, of and from a premeditated design to effect the death of the said child, did unlawfully make an assault; and the said Carrie Robinson, of and from a premeditated design to effect the death of the said child, with the hands of her, the said Carrie Robinson, placed and tightly pressed around and upon the neck of the said child, she, the said Carrie Robinson, did then and there unlawfully of and from a premeditated design to effect the death of the said child give to the said child upon and around the neck of the said child a mortal pressure, choking and strangling the said child, of and from which said mortal pressure, choking, and strangling the said child did then and there die; contrary to the laws of the state of Florida.

'Stafford Caldwell, State Attorney.'

It is contended for plaintiff in error that, inasmuch as the indictment does not allege that the defendant administered to the child a 'mortal wound' or a 'mortal injury' or a 'mortal sickness,' it is fatally defective, and because the indictment does not allege that the 'pressure was administered with the hands of defendant,' nor how it was done, the indictment is invalid. The latter point is not argued; the brief for the plaintiff in error containing merely a suggestion that the pressure was not alleged to have been made with the hands of the defendant. The manner and means of the killing is sufficiently alleged under the provisions of sections 3961 and 3962 of the General Statutes. The nature of the offense charged is described in such language as was sufficiently clear to enable the jury easily to understand it, and it was not so vague, indistinct, and indefinite as to mislead the accused and embarrass her in the preparation of her defense, or expose her to substantial danger of a new prosecution for the same offense. Indictments and informations should be upheld whenever there has been a substantial compliance with the law as announced in those sections of the General Statutes of Florida. Barber v. State, 52 Fla. 5, 42 So. 86; Lewis v. State, 55 Fla. 54, 45 So. 998; Tillman v. State, 58 Fla. 113, 50 So. 675, 138 Am. St. Rep. 100, 19 Ann. Cas. 91. The assault is alleged to have been made by the defendant unlawfully and from a premeditated design to effect the death of her child. The manner of the assault is shown to have been with the hands of the defendant 'placed and tightly pressed around and upon the neck of the said child.' The indictment then alleges that the defendant did 'then and there unlawfully, of and from a premeditated design to effect the death of the said child, give to the said child upon and around the neck of the said child a mortal pressure,' etc. The manner and means of the assault and the intention with which it was made are clearly shown. The language of the indictment might have been made clearer, as counsel for the plaintiff in error insists by the insertion of the words suggested in his brief; but the statute does not require the highest standard of excellence in the phraseology of indictments. If the language is clear enough to enable the jury to easily understand it and not so vague as to mislead the accused and embarrass her in the preparation of her defense or expose her to substantial danger of another prosecution for the same offense it is sufficient. Dickens v. State, 50 Fla. 17, 38 So. 909.

The contention of the plaintiff in error that the indictment is fatally defective because it does not allege that the defendant administered to the child a 'mortal wound' or a 'mortal injury' or a 'mortal sickness' is not well founded. In the case of Brown v. State, 18 Fla. 472, Judge Randall, then Chief Justice of this court, announced as his view of the question that:

'In addition to requiring the statement of the cause and the manner of the death, the further statement that the wound was 'mortal' has no authority in the logic of the law. The practice has conformed to the forms prescribed by an ancient court, and been perpetuated by the compilers of form books and precedents; and, in my judgment, the use of the words 'mortal wounds' in an indictment for murder by felonious wounding are unnecessary and superfluous, where the indictment alleges a wounding which produces death and precludes the suggestion that the death was caused by any other means.'

In the Keech Case, 15 Fla. 591, it was held that, where the wound inflicted was an incised wound, its dimensions should be given, and that the part of the body in which the deceased was wounded should be particularly stated. But the views as amounced in the Keech Case on this subject have been abandoned. See Hodge v. State, 26 Fla. 11, 7 So 593; Walker v. State, 34 Fla. 167, 16 So. 80, 43 Am. St. Rep. 186; Roberson v. State, 42 Fla. 223, 28 So. 424. The views expressed by Judge Randall have not been repudiated by this court. The cases cited by counsel for plaintiff in error do not sustain his position that the indictment should allege that the wound inflicted was mortal. Although in the cases cited the indictment alleged the wounds to have been mortal, in neither case was the point raised, and the indictments were held to be valid or invalid for other and different reasons. In the case at bar there was no incised wound. Death was alleged to have been produced by a 'pressure upon and around the neck.' The pressure was alleged to be 'a mortal pressure' choking and strangling the child, 'of and from which said mortal pressure choking and strangling the said child did then and there die.' What better allegation could be made than that the choking and strangling were mortal? What more is necessary to apprise the defendant of...

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33 cases
  • In Re Robinson, in Re
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • May 14, 1917
    ...Taylor v. State, 67 Fla. 127, 64 So. 454; Johnson v. State, 58 Fla. 68, 50 So. 529; Lewis v. State, 55 Fla. 54, 45 So. 998; Robinson v. State, 69 Fla. 521, 68 So. 649, L. R. 1915E, 1215. The meaning and legal import of the information appear to be clear and certain. The gravamen of the offe......
  • Smith v. State
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • December 12, 1916
    ... ... also refer to Mills v. State, 58 Fla. 74, 51 So ... 278; Edwards v. State, 62 Fla. 40, 56 So. 401; ... Sumpter v. State, 62 Fla. 98, 57 So. 202; ... Vicente v. State, 66 Fla. 197, 63 So. 423; ... Penuel v. State, 66 Fla. 203, 63 So. 422; Dykes ... v. State, 68 Fla. 110, 66 So. 565; Robinson v ... State, 69 Fla. 521, 68 So. 649, L. R. A. 1915E, 1215 ... The case of Cooper v. State, 47 Fla. 21, ... [73 So. 356] ... 36 So. 53, and Ewert v. State, 48 Fla. 36, 37 So ... 334, are especially in point, as it was contended in each of ... such cases that the indictment therein ... ...
  • Disney v. State
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • December 19, 1916
    ...prosecution for the same offense. Barineau v. State, 71 Fla. ----, 72 So. 179; Sumpter v. State, 62 Fla. 98, 57 So. 202; Robinson v. State, 69 Fla. 521, 68 So. 649, L. R. 1915E, 1215. While the indictment in this case may have been vulnerable to attack by a motion to quash it on account of ......
  • Parker v. State
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • March 8, 1940
    ...142, 11 So. 550, 17 L.R.A. 705; Buchanan v. State, 95 Fla. 301, 116 So. 275; Hasty v. State, 120 Fla. 269, 162 So. 910; Robinson v. State, 69 Fla. 521, 68 So. 649, L.R.A.1915E, 1215, Ann.Cas. 1917D, 506; Padgett State, 121 Fla. 42, 163 So. 291. In considering the probative force and weight ......
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