Sheffield v. State, 12654.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtATKINSON, Presiding Justice
Citation2 S.E.2d. 657
Docket NumberNo. 12654.,12654.
Decision Date11 April 1939

2 S.E.2d. 657


No. 12654.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

April 11, 1939.

[2 S.E.2d. 658]
Syllabus by the Court.

1. The charge of the court on the subject of reasonable doubt stated correct principles of law, and was not erroneous because of reference to the state of mind of the jurors as "refusing to reach a conclusion that is satisfactory to you."

2. On a trial for murder, evidence of admissions by the defendant that he shot the person alleged to have been slain was sufficient to authorize a charge on incriminating statements. The charge was not erroneous on the ground that it was an unauthorized expression of opinion.

3. The prisoner's statement was sufficient to authorize the charge on the law of voluntary manslaughter.

4. It was not erroneous to charge that the words "a serious personal injury, " as employed in the statutory definition of voluntary manslaughter, means "a bodily injury, and not a personal affront or wrong."

5. The charge of the court sufficiently stated all of the contentions of the defendant as set forth in his statement before the jury, which was all that appeared from which his contentions could be gleaned by the judge.

6. The evidence showing that the defendant and the deceased jointly occupied the house in which they were at the time of the shooting, the judge, in charging on the law of justifiable homicide as defined in the Code, § 26-1011, properly omitted the last clause thereof, which provides that it is justifiable to kill "any persons who manifestly intend and endeavor, in a riotous and tumultuous manner, to enter the habitation of another for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein."

7. Under the evidence, the charge on the law of justifiable homicide was not erroneous because it stated that an assault or personal violence by the invaders must "amount to a felony."

8. The latter part of Code, § 26-1011, defining justifiable homicide, was not applicable to the case. Accordingly it was not erroneous to omit to give in charge that part of the definition.

[2 S.E.2d. 659]

9. An instruction that "admissions or incriminating statements alone, uncorroborated by other evidence, will not justify a conviction, " would have been misleading, and it was not erroneous to omit to give such instruction.

10. It was not cause for reversal to omit to define the word felony as that word is used in the Code, § 26-1011, relating to justifiable homicide.

11. The evidence relied on for conviction not being entirely circumstantial, it was not cause for reversal that the judge, in absence of request, omitted to charge on the law of circumstantial evidence.

12. It was not erroneous that the judge, without request, omitted to charge: "If you believe from the evidence or the defendant's statement that the defendant unlawfully killed the deceased to prevent a misdemeanor upon his habitation, property, or person, or to prevent a trespass upon his property, habitation or person less than a felony, then the defendant would be guilty of voluntary manslaughter." Such charge would have been confusing and not properly adjusted to the facts before the jury.

13. The judge charged generally on the law of voluntary manslaughter. The evidence was insufficient to show the offense of voluntary manslaughter based on the theory of mutual combat. The only basis for a charge on the theory of mutual combat is to be found in the prisoner's statement. There was no request for a charge on that subject, and consequently it was not erroneous to omit to charge on that theory.

14. The evidence was sufficient to support the verdict, and there was no error in refusing a new trial.

Error from Superior Court, Ware County; M. D. Dickerson, Judge.

Clarence Sheffield was convicted of murder, and he brings error.


Joe Schreiber, of Waycross, and P. Z. Geer, of Colquitt, for plaintiff in error.

John S. Gibson, Sol. Gen., of Douglas, M. J. Yeomans, Atty. Gen., Herschel E. Smith, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Emil J. Clow-er, of Atlanta, for the State.

ATKINSON, Presiding Justice.

Clarence Sheffield was indicted for the murder of Bennie Ralls, committed by shoot ing with a shotgun. A verdict of guilt was returned, and the defendant was sentenced to be electrocuted. His motion for a new trial on the general grounds and on special grounds added by amendment, was overruled, and he excepted. The following statement shows in substance so much of the evidence as is necessary to a consideration of the grounds of the motion for new trial. The shooting occurred on Saturday night, October 22, 1938. The indictment was returned the following Monday, and the defendant was put on trial two days later. The tragedy took place in the front room of a two-room cabin located in Ware County about two miles out from Manor. The cabin was occupied jointly by Sheffield and Ralls. They had separate beds. On the night in question they were at Way-cross, where they came in contact with Roscoe Hall. A plan was made by Hall to carry a party of men and women in his automobile from Waycross out to the Sheffield and Ralls place, where they intended to "have audiphone music." Hall informed Sheffield of the plan. Sheffield told Hall to "come back by there and he would go if his girl would let him." Hall told Ralls what Sheffield had said, but they agreed at Ralls' suggestion that it would be too big a load, and that Hall would come back after Sheffield. The party consisting of Hall, Ralls, Frank Green, and three women left in the car, without going by for Sheffield. About twenty minutes after their arrival and entry of the house Sheffield arrived in another automobile, and called to Hall to open the door. When the door was opened he walked in and said to Hall, "Why did you leave me in town?" He then asked for the switch-key to Hall's automobile, in order that he might drive it to Glenmore. Hall refused the request, giving as his reason that he had to carry the women back to town. Sheffield then walked to the dresser and got some shells, and from the wall behind his bed on which Frank Green was sitting he got his gun, loaded it, and commenced cursing Green and threatening him with the gun while Green was arguing with him. Hall persuaded him to stop and to put down his gun. In a few minutes Sheffield got the gun again, and Hall remonstrated with him, but he seemed to get "madder and madder." He had the gun drawn on Green, who had quit arguing with him. At that time Ralls came in and said: "Sheffield, if you don't want the boys sitting on the bed, why don't you say so instead of raising all that sand?" Whereupon Shef-

[2 S.E.2d. 660]

field drew the gun on Ralls, and calling an infamous name said, "You have been messing with me enough, " and then started backing out of the door, and shot Ralls through the body. Green exclaimed that he had shot Ralls, and went to help him up, and was himself shot in like manner by Sheffield.

The foregoing substantially covers description of the tragedy as shown by the testimony of Hall. Nettie Maw McDonald, one of the women, testified that she and Frank Green were sitting on defendant's bed, "and Bennie [Ralls] came in, and he said, 'Sheffield, I wouldn't act like that. If you don't want Frank to sit on your bed, just tell him in a nice way, ' and he backed out of the door, * * * and says, 'Who wants to take it up?' and Bennie says 'I will take it up, ' and when Bennie said that he shot Bennie." Other testimony of Hall was substantially as follows: After the shooting Sheffield put the whole crowd to flight in fear and panic by repeated threats to kill and by demonstrations. In the course of this he asked Hall for the switch-key to his automobile, in order to go off in the car. On being informed that Ralls had it he caused Hall to search the pocket of Ralls for the key. Hall did so, but in his fright could not get it. Sheffield ran his hand into the pocket and gave a jerk, and the key and about forty or fifty cents in change and his pocket-knife fell out on the floor. "It was Ben-nie's knife. It was shut. * * * It did not fall out of his hand. * * * I was standing right over him, and he was lying down with his head in that direction when the knife fell out. * * * I know it wasn't lying on the floor until he run his hand in his pocket and pulled it out. * * * He [Ralls] came in the room throwing his hands that way, talking like you generally will talk when you talk to anybody and want them to mind you. He came in the room doing his hands like that and telling him, 'I wouldn't be raising all that sand with the boy about sitting on the bed.' " John Henderson, a deputy sheriff, testified that he arrested Sheffield about noon next after the shooting, about a mile from the place, who after being put in jail said that he did not see anything in the hands of the men when he shot them, that "he shot them because they had been mistreating him and had it in for him." In his statement before the jury Sheffield admitted being in Waycross and conferring with Hall about returning with him, and his returning home with another man, King Miller. He stated that after reaching home he walked up on the porch, and knocked, and called to Hall to open the door. He did not notice anybody on his bed, and got some matches to carry out to King Miller. On his return he noticed Frank Green and one of the women lying on his bed. He objected and remonstrated with Green, endeavoring to get him to leave the bed. Green refused and used much profane language. At this point Ralls knocked for admittance at the back door, and was let in by Sheffield, and Ralls said to Sheffield with an oath, "What are you going to do?" Then followed this colloquy: "I says, 'Don't you see the man?' He says, 'What you going to do about it if he is in your bed?' I says, 'Bennie, it is mine, ' and I was backing up like that. I says, 'What you going to do now?' And he allowed, 'I will beat hell out of you.' I says, 'Well, I know you...

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  • Lowe v. State, S96A1218
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • October 15, 1996
    ...... It is not declared or required that they be corroborated by other evidence in the case, as are confessions of the crime.         Sheffield v. State, 188 Ga. 1(9), 2 S.E.2d 657 (1939). That long-standing statement of the law remains valid today. Because there was no confession in this ......

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