State v. Humphries

Decision Date20 July 1977
Docket NumberNos. 76-1150,76-1318,s. 76-1150
Citation364 N.E.2d 1354,51 Ohio St.2d 95
Parties, 5 O.O.3d 89 The STATE of Ohio, Appellee, v. HUMPHRIES, Appellant. The STATE of Ohio, Appellant, v. MEYER, Appellee.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. Under the provisions of R.C. 2901.05(C)(2), a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity is an affirmative defense.

2. Under the provisions of R.C. 2901.05(A), a defendant who pleads an affirmative defense has only the burden of going forward with evidence of a nature and quality sufficient to raise that defense, and does not have the burden of establishing such defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

3. Under the provisions of R.C. 2901.05(A), when a defendant pleads an affirmative defense, and presents evidence of a nature and quality sufficient to raise that defense, the state bears the burden of persuasion beyond a reasonable doubt upon every issue necessary to convict the defendant.

4. The General Assembly enacted R.C. 2901.05 to be effective January 1, 1974. Every criminal trial held on and after that date is required to be conducted in accordance with the provisions of that section.

These appeals have been consolidated for hearing and disposition since they involve a common issue concerning the affirmative defense of insanity.

On May 2, 1975, Eddie Carl Humphries was indicted for the commission of the following crimes: aggravated burglary (R.C. 2911.11), rape (R.C. 2907.02), two counts of aggravated murder (R.C. 2903.01), and grand theft (R.C. 2913.02). On October 30, 1975, Humphries entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and trial was had before a jury.

In its instructions to the jury, the trial court stated that the burden of proving the defense of insanity rested with the defendant and that such defense had to be established by a preponderance of the evidence. The defense did not object to this instruction. On January 26, 1976, the jury found the defendant guilty on all counts except one count of aggravated murder, and judgment was entered upon the verdict.

Upon completion of the mitigation hearing, Humphries was sentenced to life imprisonment for the remaining count of aggravated murder, two to five years for grand theft, and seven to twenty-five years each for the crimes of aggravated burglary and rape, the sentences to run concurrently.

Humphries appealed the judgment to the Court of Appeals for Franklin County, assigning as error, inter alia, the trial court's instruction to the jury on the issue of proving the affirmative defense of insanity. On August 24, 1976, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, holding that the defendant has the burden of persuasion in proving the affirmative defense of insanity. An additional reason provided by the Court of Appeals in affirming the judgment was that the defendant's failure to object to the jury instructions prevented any subsequent assignment of error with respect to the issue on appeal pursuant to Crim.R. 30.

An appeal was taken to this court, on the ground that a substantial constitutional question was involved.

On August 28, 1975, Barbara Elaine Meyer was indicted in Clark County for purposely causing the death of Robert E. Meyer in violation of R.C. 2903.02. On September 3, 1975, Mrs. Meyer plead not guilty by reason of insanity and, in the alternative, plead not guilty. She waived her right to a jury trial and requested that her case be tried to the court composed of one judge.

On December 22, 1975, the trial court found Mrs. Meyer guilty as charged and that she had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she was insane at the time of causing the death of Robert E. Meyer. Based on these findings, Mrs. Meyer was sentenced for an indeterminate period of fifteen years to life imprisonment. In her memorandum in support of her motion for new trial, the defendant alleged that there was sufficient testimony of record to overcome the presumption of sanity. However, the motion for a new trial was overruled. On appeal to the Court of Appeals for Clark County, the defendant specifically assigned as error the fact that the trial court placed upon her the burden of proving the affirmative defense of insanity by a preponderance of the evidence.

In its decision rendered on October 18, 1976, the Court of Appeals held that the trial judge erred in placing upon the defendant the burden of proving the defense of insanity by a preponderance of the evidence, and vacated the judgment and sentence. Since its conclusion of law with respect to the issue of proving insanity was in conflict with the judgment of the Court of Appeals for Franklin County, the Court of Appeals for Clark County certified the record of the case to this court, pursuant to Rule III of the Rules of Practice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, for review and final determination.

Tyack, Scott, Grossman & Wiseman and G. Gary Tyack, Columbus, for appellant Humphries.

James A. Berry, Pros. Atty., James N. Griffin, Springfield, for appellant state of Ohio.

George C. Smith, Pros. Atty., Alan C. Travis, Columbus, for appellee state of Ohio.

Acton, Dunn, Busch & Flack and Edward W. Dunn, Springfield, for appellee Meyer.

SWEENEY, Justice.

In Ohio, the common-law rule has been that in a criminal case the defendant has the burden of proving the affirmative defense of insanity by a preponderance of the evidence to overcome the presumption that he is sane. 1

However, effective January 1, 1974, R.C. 2901.05 was enacted which reads in part:

"(A) Every person accused of an offense is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden of proof is upon the prosecution. The burden of going forward with the evidence of an affirmative defense is upon the accused."

In State v. Robinson (1976), 47 Ohio St.2d 103, 351 N.E.2d 88, 93, this court stated that the General Assembly, in enacting R.C. 2901.05, adopted the majority rule with respect to affirmative defenses, requiring that the state bear the burden of persuasion beyond a reasonable doubt upon every issue necessary to convict, while imposing upon the defendant the burden of coming forward with evidence sufficient to raise an affirmative defense. Although the court, in its historical analysis of affirmative defenses in Ohio, included the defense of insanity in its discussion, it limited its holding to the defense of self-defense.

Therefore, in reviewing the present causes, the court is directly confronted with the issue of whether a defendant, having plead not guilty by reason of insanity to overcome the presumption of sanity arising under R.C. 2943.03, has the burden of proving insanity by a preponderance of the evidence, or whether, under R.C. 2901.05(A), a defendant bears only the burden of going forward with sufficient evidence of insanity to raise the issue, whereupon the prosecution must prove sanity beyond a reasonable doubt.

R.C. 2901.05 defines an "affirmative defense" as either "a defense expressly designated as affirmative" or "a defense involving an excuse or justification peculiarly within the knowledge of the accused, on which he can fairly be required to adduce supporting evidence."

The defense of insanity is clearly within the statutory definition since the defense is based on an excuse, of which the defendant has special knowledge for which he can produce evidence.

Moreover, the existing common law at the time of the passage of R.C. 2901.05 indicates that the defense of insanity was considered as one of the affirmative defenses which the General Assembly subsequently discussed in drafting new legislation concerning the burden of proof to be placed upon the defendant. In State v. Poole (1973), 33 Ohio St.2d 18, 19, 294 N.E.2d 888, 889, this court noted that the defense of insanity, as well as the defenses of self-defense, duress, and intoxication, were among those affirmative defenses which "* * * represent not a mere denial or contradiction of evidence which the prosecution has offered as proof of an essential element of the crime charged, but, rather * * * represent a substantive or independent matter 'which the defendant claims exempts him from liability even if it is conceded that the facts claimed by the prosecution are true.' "

The understanding of the General Assembly that the defense of insanity commonly was included in the phrase "affirmative defense" is demonstrated by the fact that the Ohio House at one time planned to specifically exclude the defenses of intoxication and insanity from new legislation which placed upon the defendant only the burden of going forward with the evidence to prove an "affirmative defense." Robinson, supra, 47 Ohio St.2d, fn. 10, at page 110, 351 N.E.2d 88. Because the final version of R.C. 2901.05 deleted such an exclusion clause, it can reasonably be concluded that the General Assembly, given its understanding of the existing common law, intended that the defenses of insanity and intoxication be included as "affirmative defenses" as that phrase is used in R.C. 2901.05.

Thus, this court concludes that the clear language of the statute, the Ohio common law as to affirmative defenses existing at the time of enactment of the statute, and the legislative history of the statute, indicate that the defense of insanity is among those "affirmative defenses" referred to in R.C. 2901.05.

Therefore, the Court of Appeals for Clark County in State v. Meyer, case No. 76-1318, in reversing the judgment of the trial court, correctly held that the provisions of R.C. 2901.05 do apply to the affirmative defense of insanity.

However, the Court of Appeals for Franklin County held in State v. Humphries, that the defense of insanity is not affected by the provisions of R.C. 2901.05(A). The court noted that, although R.C. 2901.05(A) places the burden of going forward with the evidence of an affirmative defense upon the accused, it does not indicate to what degree the defendant has such burden. The court...

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