State v. Hann

Citation12 S.E.2d 720,196 S.C. 211
Decision Date02 December 1940
Docket Number15170.
PartiesSTATE v. HANN.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina

B F. Martin, of Greenville, for appellant.

Robert T. Ashmore, Sol., of Greenville, and Mann & Mann, of Pickens, for respondent.

L. D LIDE, Acting Associate Justice.

The defendant J. C. Hann, a young white man about 27 years old employed in a cotton mill at Easley, was indicted at the September, 1939, term of the Court of General Sessions for Pickens County upon the charge of murder, and was tried on this indictment at the February, 1940, term of the Court. He was found guilty, and motions for arrest of judgment and for a new trial being overruled, the death sentence was imposed by the presiding Judge; and the case comes before this Court upon the exceptions set forth in the record.

The evidence shows that on the morning of June 6, 1939, probably between 6:30 and 7:00 o'clock, the defendant called at the home of Miss Ruby Boling, a young woman about 23 years of age, in Easley. Her mother went to the door when the defendant knocked thereon and at his request called her daughter Ruby, who had not then gotten up, but in a few minutes she came to the door, and she and the defendant spoke to each other in a friendly way and went out together on the porch of the house. Shortly thereafter the mother heard her daughter scream, and when she went out found the defendant in the yard with her daughter holding her and attacking her with a razor. There were several witnesses who testified that they saw the defendant make these deadly assaults. And a physician testified that there were three wounds on the left side of the neck of the young woman and two on the right, that these wounds were deep gashes cut through the jugular vein and the carotid artery on the left side and the jugular vein on the right side, and that she lived approximately two or three minutes with these blood vessels cut.

We quote the following from the graphic testimony of one of the eye witnesses to the tragedy:

" The first thing that attracted my attention that morning was a scream,--it didn't sound like a child's scream but it sounded like the scream of a grown woman. I ran out and saw J. C. Hann holding Ruby Boling with his left hand and cutting at her with his right hand; I could see the blood coming from her. He turned her loose and she sat down on the curb. She got up and it looked to me like he hit or slapped her. She then ran in Mr. Chastain's yard and fell down. I went up on the porch and my mother told me not to go out. He stood looking at Ruby and said he was not going to hurt us. I later saw the razor hanging in a rose bush. That is the same razor; the one you have in your hand there with blood and hair on it. I noticed that gap in it at the coroner's inquest. I don't know who got the razor out of the rose bush. After the killing J. C. walked back up the street slinging blood off of his hands; he acted composed. When he started out the street and walked by my mother he didn't act like he was drunk and he didn't look like he was crazy. I have been knowing J. C. Hann about six years."

It appears from the testimony that the defendant's grievance against the deceased was that he had acquired a venereal disease from her which was interfering with his prospective marriage with another woman, although the evidence is conflicting as to whether this grievance had any factual basis or was merely fanciful. There was testimony that shortly before the killing the defendant had said, speaking of the deceased, "I'm going to cut her head off and throw it out of the window," and this was said while he was under the influence of liquor, it appearing that he was an habitual user of alcoholic drinks. Indeed, one of his defenses is insanity as a result of alcoholism. The defendant testified in his own behalf, and we quote the following from his direct examination:

"I went down to the store and bought a pack of cigarettes and then went over to Mrs. Boling's house and knocked on the door; I asked for Ruby and in a few minutes she came out. We spoke pleasantly and sat down on the swing to talk. I stayed there something like ten or fifteen minutes. I told her that she had ruined my life and broken up my engagement and she said that she didn't care; she said: 'I want you to know that I am as good as that girl over there;' and then I said, 'You aint nothing but a little whore;' I struck at her and my mind went blank; I didn't know what I was doing and I turned and went back out in the street and Mr. Tinsley came and got me."

Later he said on cross examination: "I asked for Ruby and she came out on the front porch--I can't talk--I don't know why I had that razor in my pocket. She insulted me about the girl I was engaged to when I told her what she had done to me and I jumped up; she then slapped me. She turned and went down the steps; I did not pull my razor out until we got in the yard; I don't know what happened then. No, sir, I did not hear anyone scream; I just don't remember. I did not know that I had cut her until after I came to; I then realized what I had done."

And we also quote the following from his cross examination:

"I told Gladys Youngblood while we were in swimming that I should cut Ruby Boling's head off.

"Q. Mr. Hann, you had it in your heart to kill Ruby Boling? A. No, sir.

"Q. You were mad at her because you thought she gave you gonorrhea; tell us isn't that the truth, before God, wasn't that the truth, you were mad at that girl and you killed her? A. Yes, sir, and I am sorry, and I ask you mercy, I am deeply sorry.

"Q. Before God you planned to kill her? A. No, sir.

"Q. On Monday afternoon you planned to kill her and it was in your heart to do that thing? A. I had it in my mind at the time.

"Q. And you were going to cut her head off like this young lady said? A. I said I would."

One of the questions raised by this appeal is that the presiding Judge committed an error in his charge on the plea, or defense, of insanity, in that he charged the jury as follows: "I charge you that in order to relieve one of responsibility for a criminal act by reason of insanity, that is, mental unsoundness, one must show that he was under a mental delusion by reason of mental disease, and that at the time of the act, he did not know that the act he committed was wrong, or criminal, or punishable, either one or the other."

And he also charged to the same effect as follows: "I charge you that if one pleads insanity as a defense, the burden is upon him to prove by the greater weight or preponderance of the evidence that at the time he committed the act he was insane--that is, that at the time he committed the act he was under a mental delusion by reason of mental disease, and that he did not know that the act that he committed was wrong, or criminal, or punishable, either one or the other."

The point is made that these instructions placed the additional burden on the defendant of showing not only that he was mentally incapable of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the act, but that he was also laboring under a mental delusion; although the Judge correctly charged that under the law of this State the test is mental capacity or want of it sufficient to distinguish moral or legal right from moral or legal wrong, and recognize the particular act charged as morally or legally wrong.

The language used by the presiding Judge, of which complaint is made, is admittedly precisely in accordance with the charge on the subject of insanity which was approved in the case of State v. Bundy, 24 S.C. 439, 58 Am.Rep. 263, and this case has been cited with approval by this Court so often, and followed so frequently by Circuit Judges, that it may well be regarded as a classic. Indeed, we think that counsel for the defendant overlooks the fact that if one committed an act violently criminal in its nature, but was at the time so mentally incapable of distinguishing right from wrong that he did not know or realize what he was doing, the conclusion must inevitably be drawn that he was under the influence of a mental delusion of some kind, which simply means an error of the mind.

The charge does not require proof of two distinct elements, one, lack of mental capacity, and the other, presence of mental delusion; but is simply a statement that inability to distinguish between right and wrong, resulting from a mental delusion due to mental disease, is a good defense. And it may be observed that the trial Judge correctly charged the request of defendant's counsel on the defense of mental incapacity arising from long continued and excessive drinking, resulting in "impairment or derangement of the mind". We cannot conceive how the defendant could have been in anywise prejudiced by the charge of the Court on this subject, especially when the entire charge is considered. The presiding Judge went into the whole matter fully and carefully, stating the law as favorably to the defendant as established principles would warrant, charging all requests presented by defendant's counsel.

It appears from the record that just before the motions for arrest of judgment and for a new trial were argued counsel for defendant referred to a conversation "I have just had in your Honor's chambers with the Solicitor and Mr Mann and your Honor", and was inquiring as to whether any reference should be made to that or not, but was told repeatedly that if he desired to put anything in the record on the subject he might do so. Among other things the Court said: "If there is any statement you care to make now you can make (it) and the stenographer will take it down"; but counsel did not avail himself of this privilege. There is, therefore, no basis in the record for any exceptions relating to the...

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3 cases
  • State v. Amburgey
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 18, 1945
    ...holding that timely objection must be made before pleading to the indictment, or else any objection to the jurors will be waived. In State v. Hann, supra, the Court quoted the following State v. Rector, 158 S.C. 212, 155 S.E. 385, 391: 'While the disqualification of a grand juror may be wai......
  • State v. Roof
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • January 2, 1941
  • State v. Beachum, 22520
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 10, 1986
    ...(1976). Presentment of a grand jury is a condition precedent to the trial of a crime except in certain minor offenses. State v. Hann, 196 S.C. 211, 12 S.E.2d 720 (1940). Presentment during trial did not remedy the lack of subject matter jurisdiction which existed at the commencement of tria......

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