Russell v. State

Decision Date28 January 1911
Citation54 So. 360,61 Fla. 50
PartiesRUSSELL v. STATE.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Error to Circuit Court, Duval County; R. M. Call, Judge.

Trixie Russell was convicted of manslaughter, and brings error. Reversed.

Syllabus by the Court

SYLLABUS

A person's dwelling house is a castle of defense for himself and those rightfully in his house, and when another attacks or invades one's dwelling in a threatening manner, under such circumstances that the owner has reason to believe and does believe that he is in danger of losing his life or suffering great bodily harm, he is not obliged to retreat, but may stand his ground, and meet any attack made upon him with such force as under all the circumstances he has reason to believe and does believe is necessary to save his life or protect himself from great bodily harm; and this rule is applicable to all persons, without regard to their moral conduct in other respects.

COUNSEL

A. G. Hartridge, for plaintiff in error.

Park Trammell, Atty. Gen., for the State.

OPINION

HOCKER J.

In January, 1910, in the circuit court of Duval county, Trixie Russell, the plaintiff in error, was indicted for the murder of one William Carter, on the 25th day of December, 1909. She was tried in February, 1910, convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to the penitentiary for the term of four years. She seeks here, on writ of error, to reverse this judgment.

The only errors assigned here are based on the rulings of the trial court refusing to give certain requested instructions to the jury, to each of which rulings an exception was properly noted. There are five of these instructions, but they all bear upon the right of self-defense by one who is assaulted in his own dwelling house. The first and third of these requested instructions are as follows:

'(1) A person's dwelling house is a castle of defense for himself and his family, and an assault upon it with intent to injure such person, or any of them, may be met in the same way as an assault upon himself, or any of them; and she may meet the assailant at the threshold, and use the force necessary for her or their protection against the threatened invasion and harm.'
'(3) The court instructs the jury that if, while one is lawfully on her own premises, another advances in a threatening manner and under such circumstances that the former believes and has reason to believe that she is in danger of losing her life or of suffering great bodily harm, she is not obliged to retreat, but may stand her ground and meet any attack made upon her in such a way and with such force as under all the circumstances she at the moment believes and has reason to believe is necessary to save her life or protect herself from great bodily harm.'

The general charge of the trial judge is eminently correct and fair to the defendant as far as it extends, though it does not cover fully the first paragraph of section 3203, Gen. St 1906, defining justifiable homicide. That paragraph is as follows: 'When resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be.' There is no reference anywhere in the charge to the law regulating the right of self-defense when made in one's own dwelling house.

This court, in the case of Wilson v. State, 30 Fla. 234, 11 So. 556, 17 L. R. A. 654, stated the law on this subject in the following terms: 'A person's dwelling house is a castle of defense for himself and his family, and an assault upon it with intent to injure him, or any of them, may be met in the same way as an assault upon himself, or any of them; and he may meet the assailant at the threshold, and use the force necessary for his or their protection against the threatened invasion and harm.' In 1 Bishop's Crim. Law,§ 858, it is said: 'In the early times our forefathers were compelled to protect themselves in their habitations by converting them into holds of defense; and so the dwelling house was called a castle. To this condition of things the law has conformed, resulting in the familiar doctrine that, while a man keeps the doors of his house closed, no other may break and enter it, except in particular circumstances to make an arrest or the like--cases not within the line of our present expositions. From this doctrine is derived another, namely, that the persons within the house may exercise all needful force to keep aggressors out, even to the taking of life. As observed by Campbell, J., in Michigan, a man is not obliged to retreat if assaulted in his dwelling, but may use such means as are absolutely necessary to repel the assailant from his house, or to prevent his forcible entry, even to the taking of life.' Again in section 859, Id., it is said: 'One attacked in his home need not retreat, and he may use all necessary force to eject the intruder, whom he may kill in doing it, if this extreme measure appears unavoidable.' It seems to be clear, however, that one assaulted in his dwelling house would not be justified in killing the aggressor, unless he had reasonable ground to believe, and did believe, that unless he killed the aggressor a felony would be committed upon him or her, or upon or in the slayer's dwelling. The general law on this subject is given in the case of State v. Patterson, 45 Vt. 308, and in the note to that case in 12 Am. Rep. 200-212. See, also, 25 Cyc. page 277, where the law relating to the defense of one's habitation (the curtilage) is fully stated.

We will now examine the evidence to see whether the refused instructions were applicable thereto. Trixie Russell admits she was a prostitute. She lived at No. ----, on Ward street, in the city of Jacksonville, in a house rented by her. She shot William Carter in the hall of her own house with a pistol about 2 o'clock in the morning of the 25th of December, 1909.

A Mr. Baxley testified for the state that he was on Ward street, between Jefferson and Bridge streets, about half past 1 or 2 o'clock on the morning of the 25th of December, 1909; that, when he arrived opposite Trixie Russell's house, the door was open; that he saw three people standing in the hall, one woman and two men. He went up the steps to the door, and saw the woman shoot three times. He then went back to the sidewalk. The two men came out of the house, and the one that was shot sat down on the edge of the porch, and said, 'I'm a dead man.' He identified Trixie Russell as the woman who did the shooting. There was a door from the narrow hall into Trixie Russell's room. She was standing just out of this door in the hall--between witness and Carter, the man who was shot. While witness and a friend were standing on the corner of Jefferson street, two people went across on the opposite side of the street. Witness did not see Carter doing anything, as he was shot as witness got to the door. He did not see either of the parties move after he got to the door. Carter was standing about three feet from Trixie, his hands were down, and witness did not see him attempt to strike her. He saw no brick in Carter's hands. It was 15 or 20 seconds from the time witness got in view of the door, walked up in the door, and Trixie shot just as he got to the door. The hall was about 3 1/2 feet wide. One man was standing in the hall between witness and Carter.

The state's next witness was Frank Davenport. He was at Trixie Russell's house on the morning of the 25th of December, 1909, when Mr. Carter came there. He says that he was standing in the door talking to Trix Russell, when Carter and his friend came up on the porch, and they went to the door next to the one where he and Trixie were, and they made a lot of racket rapping on the door, and the woman in that room came to the door, and told him to go away--told him 'If you don't, I'll get something and blow your brains out,' and slammed the door in his face. He (presumably Carter) then walked up to where witness and Trixie were standing talking, and walked right in. Trixie told him to go out. He did not go, and told her he had as much right there as anybody. So Trixie 'walks on in her bedroom and gets a gun and shoots him.' The house in which Trixie lived was a double house--two doors, about 10 feet apart. When Carter came to the house, witness was inside of the door, against the facing. She was leaning against the other door facing. Carter was not acting in a boisterous manner; just refused to get out. The door was open when Carter came up on the porch. Carter got 10 or 15 feet inside the door, just past her bedroom. Carter was standing up, talking to Trixie, when he was shot. He had no weapons--had no brick. Witness told Carter, 'If I...

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  • State v. Pellegrino, 19946
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • May 22, 1998
    ...45 Ariz. 275, 43 P.2d 210 (1935); Collegenia v. State, 9 Okla.Crim. 425, 132 P. 375 (1913). The Florida Supreme Court in Russell v. State, 61 Fla. 50, 54 So. 360 (1911), examined its equivalent justifiable homicide statute, which states in part: "When resisting any attempt to murder such pe......
  • State v. Sorrentino
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    ...of business or his place of refuge; that consequently, a man's place of business must be regarded pro hac vice his dwelling. In Russell vs. State, 61 Fla. 50; 54 So. 360, State vs. Kennade, 121 Mo. 405; 26 S.W. 347, a house of prostitution was held to come within the meaning of a home or ca......
  • State v. COUCH
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    • May 20, 1948
    ...the statute. See Collegenia v. State, 9 Okl.Cr. 425, 132 P. 375, and Viliborghi v. State, 45 Ariz. 275, 43 P.2d 210. In Russell v. State, 61 Fla. 50, 54 So. 360, 361, the court said: 'The general charge of the trial judge is eminently correct and fair to the defendant as far as it extends, ......
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