The People v. Choy

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Citation1 Idaho 317
PartiesThe People, Respondents, v. Ah Choy, Appellant.
Decision Date01 January 1870

CRIMINAL LAW-INDICTMENT.-An indictment for murder is sufficient if it charges the killing to have been done with malice aforethought; this is defined by lexicographers as meaning premeditated, and premeditated and deliberate are synonymous terms.

FLIGHT-EVIDENCE.-Evidence of flight by a person accused of crime is admissible for the purpose of showing who did the act, not for the purpose of determining the degree of the offense.

APPEAL from the Third Judicial District, Owyhee County.

Rosborough & Preston, for the Appellant. L. P. Higbee and Frank Ganahl for the Respondents.

NOGGLE C. J.,

delivered the opinion,

KELLY and LEWIS, JJ., concurring.

This is an appeal brought by the defendant to reverse the judgment of the Owyhee district court rendered at the last

June term of said court. Upon the argument of this case in the supreme court two causes of error are assigned by the defendant upon which he relies to reverse the judgment: 1. He claims that the indictment is defective because it does not allege the killing to be "deliberate and premeditated," in the words of section 17 of the statutes of crimes and punishments on page 438 of the laws of the first session of the legislature of Idaho territory; and 2. Because the district court erred in excluding the evidence offered by the defendant to explain his motive in flying from the place of the homicide, and for the purpose of rebutting the presumption arising from flight. There is also a third point made in the defendant's brief, viz.: because the evidence submitted to the jury did not warrant a conviction of murder in the first degree. This last point, however, was abandoned on the argument, leaving only the two first to be considered by this court.

Is the indictment defective, as claimed by defendant's counsel or is the first error, as above stated, well assigned? Or did the district judge properly direct the jury that the indictment in this case sufficiently charged the crime of murder in the first degree?

The statutes of this territory, sections 233 and 234 of the Criminal Practice Act, on page 266 of the laws of the first session, and section 242, on page 267, very positively state what an indictment shall contain, and in obedience to these statute laws, the court cannot require the prosecution to go further.

According to the statutes referred to, "the indictment shall be sufficient if it can be understood therefrom: 1. That it is entitled in a court having authority to receive it, though the name of the court be not accurately set forth. 2. That it must be found by a grand jury of the county in which the court was held. 3. That the defendant is named, or if his name cannot be discovered, that he be described by a fictitious name, with a statement that he has refused to disclose his real name. 4. That the offense was committed at some place within the jurisdiction of the court. 5. That the offense was committed at

some time prior to the time of finding the indictment. 6. That the act or omission charged as the offense is clearly and distinctly set forth in ordinary and concise language, without repetition, and in such a manner as to enable a person of common understanding to know what is intended. 7. That the act or omission charged as the offense is stated with such a degree of certainty as to enable the court to pronounce judgment upon a conviction, according to the right of the case."

The laws of this territory are conceded to be copies from the laws in force in California; that being so, the may very properly, in construing its laws, follow the decisions of the supreme court in California. In the case of People v. Lloyd, 9 Cal. 54, it is held that "it is not necessary in an indictment for murder to state the degree of the offense. Under our statute, the essential averments of an indictment should be the same as at common law." In the same book, page 583, in the case of People v. Dolan, the court say: "The third objection is founded on the absence of the word 'deliberate,' which the applicant contends is necessary to constitute the crime of murder in the first degree. The indictment charges the act to have been done with malice aforethought."

Aforethought as defined by Webster, means premeditated; premeditated and deliberate are synonymous. The definition given of murder in the statute is "the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought, expressed or implied." This definition includes both degrees of murder, and it is sufficient if the indictment charges the offense in the language of the statute defining it. (People v. Parsons, 6 Cal. 487; People v. Murray, 10 Cal. 309-313; People v. Ybarra, 17 Cal. 166.) From these authorities, it is the opinion of this court that under the laws of this territory "the unlawful killing of a human being...

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13 cases
  • State v. Hargraves
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • November 6, 1940
    ...to for the purpose of determining who did the act and cannot be resorted to for the purpose of fixing the crime or grade of crimes. (People v. Ah Choy, supra; People Cismadija, 167 Mich. 210, 132 N.W. 489; 8 R. C. L. 192, sec. 188; Williams v. State, 43 Tex. 182, 23 Am. Rep. 590.) Cross-exa......
  • State v. McMahan
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • January 16, 1937
    ...was adopted into our practice. The Butler Case was cited and followed in State v. O'Neil, 24 Idaho 582, 135 P. 60. In People v. Ah Choy, 1 Idaho 317, it appears indictment for murder was substantially in the language of the statute, and the court upheld it. In State v. Ellington, 4 Idaho 52......
  • State v. Mcmahan
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • January 16, 1937
    ...was adopted into our practice. The Butler case was cited and followed in State v. O'Neil, 24 Idaho 582, 135 P. 60. In People v. Ah Choy, 1 Idaho 317, it appears indictment for murder was substantially in the language of the statute, and the court upheld it. In State v. Ellington, 4 Idaho 52......
  • State v. Creech
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • May 23, 1983
    ...IS NOT VIEWABLE In 1870 a territorial jury convicted the defendant of first degree murder, and accordingly he was executed. People v. Ah Choy, 1 Idaho 317 (1870). In 1874 another territorial jury convicted another defendant of first degree murder, and he, too, suffered judgment of death. Pe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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