State v. Myers

Decision Date13 March 1972
Docket NumberNo. 559--I,559--I
Citation6 Wn.App. 557,494 P.2d 1015
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Robert Warner MYERS, Appellant.
CourtWashington Court of Appeals

Ralph A. Alfieri, and John C. Stephenson, Seattle, (Court appointed) for appellant.

Christopher T. Bayley, King County Pros. Atty., James R. Miller, Deputy Pros. Atty., Seattle, for respondent.

HOROWITZ, Chief Judge.

Defendant was charged with murder in the first degree. He entered a not guilty plea and, in addition, a plea of insanity and mental irresponsibility at the time of the commission of the crime. After jury trial he was convicted. He appeals. The court below added new counsel on appeal.

The facts which the jury could have found from the evidence are these. On the evening of August 23, 1969, defendant shot and killed Marjorie May Thomson with a gun owned by him after she had rejected his sexual advances. Mrs. Tomson's death resulted from a bullet entering and exiting her body while seated in the chair in the living room of a house in which defendant was renting a room prior to and on the evening of August 23, 1969. The defendant, in order to conceal blood stains resulting from the shooting, burned the carpet in front of the chair. Immediately after the shooting, he took the deceased's body out of the room, placed it in the trunk of Mrs. Thomson's Chevrolet car, which was then parked near the building in which defendant's room was located, and drove to a Kent shopping center where he parked the car in the shopping center parking lot. From there the car was stolen, driven to Olympia, Washington, and there parked by the driver in a bowling alley lot. Upon a subsequent search of the trunk of the car, the body of the deceased was discovered. Following the discovery defendant was ultimately found and charged with the crime of which he was convicted, this appeal following.

On the issue of insanity and mental irresponsibility, psychiatric testimony was received concerning the mental condition of the defendant at the time of the shooting. The psychiatrists testified that defendant for many years prior to the shooting and at the time of the shooting was a 'chronic paranoid schizophrenic.' Thus, Dr. Richard B. Jarvis, called as a witness both by the state and by the defendant, testified that schizrophrenia 'implies a fragmentation of personality so that one may think one way, feel another way, talk another way, act another way.' He further testified:

Paranoid refers essentially to the process of entertaining delusions, false beliefs, oftentimes delusions of persecution and oftentimes delusions of grandeur. In general, it is understood to indicate a feeling of living in a hostile environment where people are conspiring against one or everyone is out to give you a hard time, where nobody can really be trusted.

He further testified the term 'chronic,' in connection with the other two terms, simply means 'of long duration, and essentially a fixed condition.' He testified that the crime here 'was the product of his mental illness.' Nevertheless, Dr. Jarvis testified that the defendant was not legally insane under the M'Naghten Rule. He stated, when asked to explain the difference between medical and legal insanity:

Well, as I understand it, a person can be psychotic, that is, medically insane, and yet, under the rigid criteria set by the law, still have the capacity to know what he's doing, to know that it is wrong; and that isn't too unreasonable, because in a state hospital where all of the people--where most people are adjudicated as 'insane,' there is still given privilege and responsibility, according to how much capacity they show for accepting responsibility.

He distinguished medical insanity so testified to from legal insanity under the M'Naghten Rule as 'whether or not the man knew right from wrong at the time of the commission of the crime.' Accordingly, he testified that at the time defendant committed the crime 'he knew that he was holding a gun, a.38 caliber pistol,' knew that 'he was pointing it at a human being,' and knew 'the probable consequences of such an act would be the death of the person at whom he shot the gun.' In general all four psychiatrists agreed that defendant was and had been a paranoid schizophrenic. There was also testimony that defendant suffered from delusions and hallucinations, and one testified that, in his opinion, at the time of the crime defendant did not know the difference between right and wrong. The jury by its verdict rejected the defense of insanity and mental irresponsibility.

Defendant first contends the court erred in holding the defendant competent to stand trial. The issue of the defendant's competency to stand trial was heard prior to trial at length in a CrR 101.20W hearing. The court made detailed findings of fact. Included in the findings was the finding:

The defendant is competent to stand trial. He appreciates his peril, is aware of his surroundings, is articulate and intelligent, is alert and is well able to assist his counsel in his defense.

This finding conforms to the applicable standard of competency to stand trial. State v. Harvey, 5 Wash.App. 719, 491 P.2d 660 (1971); State v. Tate, 74 Wash.2d 261, 444 P.2d 150 (1968). We have carefully examined the record of the CrR 101.20W hearing and are abundantly satisfied that each of the findings made by the court, including the findings as to competency, is supported by substantial evidence. Thorndike v. Hesperian Orchards, Inc., 54 Wash.2d 570, 343 P.2d 183 (1959).

Defendant contends that the court erred in holding that certain written and oral statements, made by him to the arresting police officers in the course of his trip from Arizona back to Washington following his arrest, were voluntarily made. The testimony showed that the statements were made after the defendant had been warned of his Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent. There was psychiatric testimony received in support of the state's position that the statements were voluntarily made. The trial court made detailed findings concerning the circumstances of the making of the statements. The findings so made included the following:

The statement that he gave was not as a result of any threats, promises, duress, coercion or assurances by the police officers. The defendant was treated and handled considerately and courteously at all times by these officers and the statements given by the defendant were given intelligently, willingly, freely and knowingly by the defendant after he had voluntarily waived his constitutional rights and had waived them intelligently, willingly, freely and knowingly as to the consequences of such waiver.

Defendant contends that the court erred in refusing defendant's proposed instructions No. 6, 1 7, 2 and 8, 3 and erred in giving instructions No. 19, 4 20, 5 and 21. 6 The errors claimed raise the basic issue of the propriety of instructing on the issue of the M'Naghten Rule as the sole test of insanity and mental irresponsibility rather than on medical insanity as a defense to the charge of murder in the first degree. The instructions refused are not set out in appellant's brief as required by CAROA 43, 46(f). Furthermore, when the exceptions to the instructions proposed and the instructions later given were taken below, proposed instruction No. 6 was stated to be 'a recitation of the Durham Rule,' but no further statement or argument was made concerning it. Proposed instruction No. 7, without further statement of reasons, was said to embody Model Penal Code § 4.01. Similarly, proposed instruction No. 8 was described without more to be 'essentially one of irresistible impulse.' Instructions No. 19, 20 and 21 given were excepted to, but without statement of grounds as is required by CR 51(f) and CrR 101.04W(e). State v. Louie, 68 Wash.2d 304, 413 P.2d 7 (1966). It may be that in the trial briefs filed, which are not before us, the subject of criminal responsibility was fully discussed so that the trial court was aware of the nature of the rules referred to by defendant's counsel in his exceptions. These and other rules had been fully discussed in earlier Washington cases later referred to, as well as in cases such as Wade v. United States, 426 F.2d 64 (9th Cir. 1970), and Durham v. United States, 94 U.S.App.D.C. 228, 214 F.2d 862 (1954). See State v. White, 60 Wash.2d 551, 374 P.2d 942 (1962). Whatever doubt there may be as to the sufficiency of the assignments of error made to permit review here, or as to the sufficiency of the exceptions taken to conform with the requirements of CR 51(f), CrR 101.04W(e), and CAROA 46(f), so as to permit review, we nevertheless, in this case, consider the issue raised lest defendant be convicted of the crime of murder charged notwithstanding that he may be legally innocent by reason of insanity and mental irresponsibility. See State v. Williams, 4 Wash.App. 908, 484 P.2d 1167 (1971).

The merits of the competing rules have been much considered by our Supreme Court. In State v. Maish, 29 Wash.2d 52, 185 P.2d 486, 173 A.L.R. 382 (1947), and again in State v. White, Supra, the court had rejected the irresistible impulse test as a test of insanity. As late as State v. Reece, 79 Wash.2d 453, 486 P.2d 1088 (1971), the court, citing its latest cases, State v. White, Supra, and State v. Tyler, 77 Wash.2d 726, 466 P.2d 120 (1970), again adhered to the M'Naghten Rule first announced in 1843. M'Naghten's Case, 8 Eng. Rep. 718 (H.L., 1843). The court approved the following as a correct statement of the M'Naghten test, 79 Wash.2d at 454, 486 P.2d at 1089:

Is the mind of the accused so diseased or affected at the time of the commission of the act charged that he is unable to perceive the moral qualities of the act with which he is charged and is unable to tell right from wrong with reference to the particular acts charged.

Accordingly, no purpose...

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  • Myers v. Rhay, 76-3666
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