Simmons v. State

Decision Date25 June 1948
Citation36 So.2d 207,160 Fla. 626
PartiesSIMMONS v. STATE.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Appeal from Circuit Court, Bay County; Ira Hutchison, Judge.

B. L. Solomon, and Robert L. McCrary, Jr., both of Marianna, for appellant.

J. Tom Watson Atty. Gen. and Reeves Bowen, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

WHITE, Associate Justice.

This is an appeal from a conviction and sentence for violation of Statute 794.05. At the trial the lower court did not include in its instructions to the jury the charge with respect to the penalty fixed by law for the offense for which the accused was then on trial as required by Statute 918.10. The failure to give the charge is the sole ground for reversal urged by the appellant on this appeal.

Statute 918.10 enacted by the Legislature in the year 1945, provides:

'The presiding judge shall charge the jury only upon the law of the case at the conclusion of argument of counsel, and must include in said charge the penalty fixed by law for the offense for which the accused is then on trial.'

It was held by this Court in Eggart v. State, 1898, 40 Fla. 527, 25 So. 144, that, except in cases involving capital punishment, where a majority of the jury may be a recommendation to mercy in their verdict commute the penalty of death to life imprisonment, the trial jury has no concern with the penalty imposed by statute with respect to criminal offenses; and that instructions upon that subject are inappropriate. See also Osius v. State, 1928, 96 Fla. 318, 117 So. 859. The principle established in those cases still controls as respects the scope of instructions to be given in a criminal prosecution, unless Section 918.10 has abrogated the effect of the cited decisions and now makes mandatory the giving of an instruction as to the penalty fixed by law for the offense for which the accused is then on trial.

In the trial of a criminal case in Florida the function of the jury is to determine the issues of fact. The issues of fact embrace the disputes between the State and the defendant as to what actually existed or occurred at the particular time and place in question. When the State has carried the burden which rests upon it, the jury must apply the law in charge to the facts thus shown to be true in order to arrive at a verdict conformable to law. Hence the sole function of the court's charge is properly to inform the jury concerning the rules of law applicable to the facts in dispute. If the court is required to depart from this course and discuss matters having no bearing on the true function of the jury the trial necessarily is disconcerted and impeded.

The preservation of the inherent powers of the three branches of government--legislative, executive, and judicial--free from encroachment or infringement by one upon the other, is essential to the safekeepting of the American system of constitutional rule.

This statement is found (11 Am.Jur., p. 908):

'Any legislation that hampers judicial action or interferes with the discharge of judicial functions is unconstitutional.'

This statement is also found (16 C.J.S., Constitutional Law, § 128, page 330):

'Although the legislature may regulate the procedure of trial courts with respect to instructions to juries, it cannot abridge the power of the judge to charge the law, and direct a verdict where the facts are undisputed;nor can it require the court to instruct the jury without regard to the evidence offered.' (Italics supplied.)

In State v Hopper, 1880, 71 Mo. 425, a statute directed the court, in trials upon indictments charging murder in the first degree to charge upon the law...

To continue reading

Request your trial
39 cases
  • Estate of McCall v. U.S.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Florida
    • September 30, 2009
    ...court disagrees. The legislation at issue does not impermissibly interfere with the function of the judiciary. See Simmons v. State, 160 Fla. 626, 36 So.2d 207, 208 (1948) (stating any legislation that hampers or interferes with the function of the judiciary is unconstitutional). The statut......
  • Elliott, In re, 39278
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • October 10, 1968
    ...to the implied limitations of the constitution as a matter of construction. State v. Doe, supra; In re Laub, supra; Simmons v. State, 160 Fla. 626, 36 So.2d 207 (1948); Fort Howard Paper Co. v. Fox River Heights Sanitary Dist., 250 Wis. 145, 26 N.W.2d 661 (1947). Such holdings are consisten......
  • Marr v. State
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • January 29, 1985
    ...law to be applied to the case, free from legislative encroachment, is exemplified by the following statements from Simmons v. State, 160 Fla. 626, 36 So.2d 207, 208 (1948): When the State has carried the burden which rests upon it, the jury must apply the law in charge to the facts thus sho......
  • Walker v. Bentley
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • August 30, 1995
    ...that hampers judicial action or interferes with the discharge of judicial functions is unconstitutional." Simmons v. State, 160 Fla. 626, 628, 36 So.2d 207, 208 (Fla.1948) (quoting 11 Am.Jur. 908). These precepts have their genesis in the doctrine of the separation of powers, which has as i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT