State v. Grebe

Decision Date14 December 1970
Docket NumberNo. 54524,54524
Citation461 S.W.2d 265
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Ruth I. GREBE, Appellant.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

John C. Danforth, Atty. Gen., Michael L. Boicourt, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, for respondent.

Ike Skelton, Jr., Lexington, Robert L. Rasse, Marshall, William E. Brandecker, Columbia, for appellant.

DONNELLY, Presiding Judge.

Appellant, Ruth I. Grebe, was convicted of manslaughter under §§ 559.070 and 556.170, RSMo 1959, V.A.M.S., by the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri, and her punishment was assessed at imprisonment in the custody of the State Department of Corrections for a term of three years. § 559.140, RSMo 1959, V.A.M.S. Following rendition of judgment and imposition of sentence, an appeal was perfected to this Court.

Appellant, with her husband and children, lived on a farm adjoining and west of the Salem Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Johnson County, Missouri. A dispute arose between the Grebes and the trustees of the church as to ownership of a strip of land between the two properties.

On the morning of July 7, 1967, Larry Martin and his father, Robert Hugh Martin, members of the church, went to the church to mow the grass. An altercation occurred between the Martins and appellant, Kenneth Grebe, her thirteen-year-old son, and the Grebe dog. Robert Hugh Martin was killed. The parties do not question on this appeal that Robert Hugh Martin died as a result of a stab wound inflicted by Kenneth Grebe.

Appellant first contends the trial court erred in failing to sustain her motions for directed verdict of acquittal for the reason that the evidence is legally insufficient to justify a submission that she aided and abetted Kenneth Grebe in the alleged homicide and, therefore, the submission thereof to the jury was prejudicially erroneous to her.

The parties agree that Larry Martin testified essentially as follows: Immediately prior to the altercation, the Martins, father and son, walked toward appellant, Ruth Grebe, her son, and their dog. They stopped within four or five feet of the Grebes and there was no conversation between them except one of the Grebes stated that the Martins should get off the property. Kenneth Grebe removed a six-inch knife from his trousers and began swinging it back and forth. The Grebe dog advanced rapidly toward Larry Martin, who removed a robber hose from his pocket, and struck the dog. Kenneth Grebe stabbed Larry Martin in the groin with the knife. The dog grabbed Larry Martin's right arm and he concentrated on it. At that time Larry Martin didn't know where Ruth Grebe was, and he did not hear her say anything or see her do anything at that point. Larry Martin raised up and looked toward the west where he saw defendant Ruth Grebe pushing Robert Hugh Martin backward down the fence line with her hands shoving on his collar bone. Larry Martin hit Ruth Grebe with his hose. Ruth Grebe moved away from Robert Hugh Martin and 'stood there and looked' at Larry Martin. Ruth Grebe then pulled Larry Martin backward by his shoulders. He then saw Ruth Grebe behind Robert Hugh Martin pulling him backward by his shoulders. At that time, there was blood on Robert Hugh Martin's clothing. The dog jumped on Robert Hugh Martin, Larry Martin hit the dog with his hose, and the dog got off. Larry Martin then assisted his father to rise and they left the scene and walked east toward the front of the churchyard. Robert Hugh Martin died as a result of a knife wound in the abdomen.

Appellant poses the issue as follows:

'The question is whether the testimony of Larry Martin, who, together with his father, Robert Hugh Martin, were engaged in an altercation on the morning in question, adduces sufficient evidence to make defendant Ruth I. Grebe an aider and abettor with the alleged act of her son, Kenneth Grebe, in stabbing Robert Hugh Martin.'

The applicable general rules of law are well established. Section 556.170, RSMo 1959, V.A.M.S., reads as follows: 'Every person who shall be a principal in the second degree in the commission of any felony, or who shall be an accessory to any murder or other felony before the fact, shall, upon conviction, be adjudged guilty of the offense in the same degree, and may be charged, tried, convicted and punished in the same manner, as the principal in the first degree.'

In State v. Butler, Mo.Sup., 310 S.W.2d 952, at 957, this Court said: 'It is well settled that a party may be charged with the commission of the felony and be held under such charge for being present and participating in concert with the others in the commission of the crime, or for being present and aiding and assisting another in doing it. It is not necessary that he, personally, have done all of the things which together make up the elements of the crime. * * * Under the accessory statute it is necessary only that he in some manner have aided or abetted those committing the criminal act. § 556.170, V.A.M.S. The practical effect of the statute is to virtually abrogate the distinction between principals and accessories.'

In Nye & Nissen v. United States, 336 U.S. 613, at 619, and 620, 69 S.Ct. 766, at 770, 93 L.Ed. 919, the Supreme Court of the United States said: 'In order to aid and abet another to commit a crime it is necessary that a defendant 'in some sort associate himself with the venture, that he participate in it as in something that he wishes to bring about, that he seek by his action to make it succeed.' L. Hand, J., in United States v. Peoni, 2 Cir., 100 F.2d 401, 402. * * * Aiding and abetting * * * states a rule of criminal responsibility for acts which one assists another in performing.'

In State v. Cobb, Mo.Sup., 444 S.W.2d 408, at 412, this Court said: 'The presence of the accused at the place of the commission of a criminal offense may be considered along with other incriminating evidence to determine if the total circumstances raise a reasonable inference that the accused was a participant or an aider or abettor in the crime. * * * Evidence fairly showing any form of affirmative participation in a crime is sufficient to support a conviction. * * *'

In People v. Barrett, 261 Ill. 232, 103 N.E. 969, at 971, the Supreme Court of Illinois said: 'When the deceased received the fatal thrust from the knife plaintiffs in error were engaged in a common cause and there was perfect concert of action between them. Although Henry Barrett did not strike the blow that killd the deceased, he was present aiding and abetting his brother in the unlawful assault and under the statute was a principal and equally guilty with him. It is immaterial that no word was spoken between plaintiffs in error from the time the trouble began until after the killing, as the evidence of their common design, as well as the aiding and abetting of one by the other, was as effectively and conclusively shown by their actions as though by spoken words.'

Under the evidence adduced, the jury could find that appellant knew Kenneth Grebe was armed with a knife and stabbed Larry Martin; that she and Kenneth Grebe thereafter engaged in a joint assault on Robert Hugh Martin; and that she intentionally aided and abetted Kenneth Grebe in the commission of the unlawful act of stabbing Robert Hugh Martin. In view of these facts, which distinguish the Missouri cases cited by appellant, the jury could find Ruth I. Grebe guilty of manslaughter even though Kenneth Grebe struck the fatal blow. State v. Hermann, 117 Mo. 629, 23 S.W. 1071. See annotations, 95 A.L.R.2d 175 and 12 A.L.R. 275. We believe a submissible case was made for the jury.

Appellant next contends the trial court erred in giving and reading to the jury Instruction 11A, which reads, in part, as follows:

'The Court instructs the jury that if you find the defendant not guilty of murder in the second degree, then you will consider whether or not under the testimony in this case, the defendant is guilty of manslaughter.

'You are instructed that if you find and believe from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, Kenneth Grebe at the County of Johnson and State of Missouri did wilfully and feloniously, but without premeditation and malice aforethought, stab with a knife and kill one Robert Hugh Martin, and if you further find that the defendant, Ruth I. Grebe, was present at the said time and place, and knowing the unlawful intent of Kenneth Grebe,...

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