State v. Durgin

Decision Date02 November 1973
PartiesSTATE of Maine v. Scott L. DURGIN.
CourtMaine Supreme Court

Chadbourn H. Smith, John R. Atwood, Asst. Attys. Gen., Augusta, for plaintiff.

Edward G. Hudon, Brunswick, Lloyd P. LaFountain, Biddeford, for defendant.


POMEROY, Justice.

A York County jury properly constituted, has evaluated the evidence presented to it and has pronounced as legal fact that Scott Durgin, the appellant herein, did take the life of Carl L. Welch under such circumstances as to constitute unlawful homicide, punishable as murder.

That the trial was error free, at least up to the point of the Court's instructions, is best evidenced by the fact that competent counsel for the appellant makes no claim of error.

In addition to a plea of not guilty, appellant Durgin entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease and defect as the law permits him to do. 15 M.R.S.A. § 101 et seq.

Following the jury's verdict, 'guilty as charged,' a judgment was entered which had the legal effect of declaring the appellant guilty of unlawful homicide, punishable as murder and a sentence of life imprisonment within the Maine State Prison was imposed.

This appeal followed.

While no objection was entered to any part of the presiding Justice's instructions to the jury at the time of the trial, the appellant now poses two questions:

1. Was the Jury properly instructed on the issue presented by the Defendant's plea that he was not guilty because he suffered from a mental disease and defect?

2. As it was applied in this case, is the so-called Durham Rule the proper test with which to determine whether a person is afflicted by a mental disease or defect?

We deny the appeal.

While the appellant is barred by a rule we recently described as one which embodies 'a strong policy, necessary for the sound and efficient administration of justice,' 1 M.R.Crim.P. Rule 30(b) from pressing his claim that the instructions given were erroneous, we have carefully reviewed the charge to determine that there was no error in law highly prejudicial and well calculated to result in injustice. State v. Smith, 140 Me. 255, 285, 37 A.2d 246, 259 (1944).

We have determind that the instructions given to the jury by the presiding Justice were remarkably clear, complete and accurate. Far from reflecting a misconception of the law as it relates to the affirmative defense of 'not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect,' the charge could properly be used as a mode.

Public Laws 1963, c. 311, sec. 3, which is now 15 M.R.S.A. § 102, declared as the law of Maine:

'An accused is not criminally responsible if his unlawful act was the product of mental disease or mental defect. The terms 'mental disease' or 'mental defect' do not include an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal conduct or excessive use of drugs . . ..'

Thus, the so-called 'M'Naughton Rule,' which had been assented to as the law of Maine in State v. Lawrence, 57 Me. 574 (1870), was discarded and the so-called 'Durham Rule,' with modifications, was established in its place by legislative fiat.

In Durham v. United States, 94 U.S.App.D.C. 228, 214 F.2d 862 (1954), from which our statute was derived, the Court was by inherent judicial outhority formulating a test.

In dealing with the problem since 1961 our Court has construed and interpreted an Act of the Legislature. State v. Hathaway, 161 Me. 255, 211 A.2d 558 (1965).

In Hathaway, supra, we interpreted our statute consistently with the decision of the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia in McDonald v. United States, 114 U.S.AppD.C. 120, 312 F.2d 847 (1962), which decision re-examined and implemented Durham, supra.

Hathaway established the requirement that the jury must be informed that 'they could and must decide whether upon all the evidence the defendant had proved by a preponderance that at the occurrence of the fatal event the defendant's mental or emotional processes were substantially affected and his behavior controls were substantially impaired.'

Washington v. United States, 129 U.S.App.D.C. 29, 390 F.2d 444 (1967), is of interest to us, not because it in any way modified the rule of law established by Durham, but rather because it crystallized the areas of responsibility assigned to the jury and those assigned to the expert psychiatrists.

The rule of law established by Washington was merely that the Court should not permit testimony from psychiatrists in terms of 'product.' Even though the decision in Durham has used that term, this was so, the Washington Court said, because the...

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20 cases
  • State v. Lewisohn
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • November 8, 1977
    ...The instructions given to the jury by the presiding Justice on this issue were remarkably clear, complete and accurate. See State v. Durgin, 1973, Me., 311 A.2d 266. The entry will Appeal denied. WEATHERBEE, J., sat at argument and participated in consultation, but died prior to the prepara......
  • Government of Virgin Islands v. Fredericks
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • June 7, 1978
    ...processes were substantially affected and his behavior controls were substantially impaired; adopting McDonald ). See State v. Durgin, 311 A.2d 266, 267-68 (Me.1973); State v. Upton, 362 A.2d 738, 739 (Me.1976).52 See e. g. State v. Armstrong, 344 A.2d 42, 51-52 (Me.1975); State v. Wallace,......
  • Com. v. Kappler
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • December 15, 1993
    ...84 (Ky.1977); State v. Caryl, 168 Mont. 414, 543 P.2d 389 (1975); State v. DiPaglia, 64 N.J. 288, 315 A.2d 385 (1974); State v. Durgin, 311 A.2d 266 (Me.1973); In re Franklin, 7 Cal.3d 126, 101 Cal.Rptr. 553, 496 P.2d 465 (1972); Riggins v. State, 226 Ga. 381, 174 S.E.2d 908 (1970); State v......
  • Gov't of the Virgin Islands v. Fredericks, 77-1963
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • April 24, 1978
    ...1976). 69. See e.g. State v. Armstrong, 344 A.2d 42, 51-52 (Me. 1975); State v. Wallace, 333 A.2d 72, 75-76 (Me. 1975); State v. Durgin, 311 A.2d 266, 267-68 (Me. 1973); State v. Collins, 297 A.2d 620, 628 (Me. 1972). 70. See Port Construction Co. v. Govt, of Virgin Islands, 5 V.I. 549, 359......
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