Wilson v. State

Decision Date14 May 1942
Docket Number1 Div. 157.
Citation243 Ala. 1,8 So.2d 422
PartiesWILSON v. STATE.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

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Counts 1 and 4 of the indictment are as follows:

"1. The Grand Jury of said County charge, that, before the finding of this indictment Laura Wilson, whose name is to the Grand Jury otherwise unknown, unlawfully, and with malice aforethought, killed William Grover Wilson, by burning him with fire, against the peace and dignity of the State of Alabama."

"4. The Grand Jury of said County does further charge, that, before the finding of this indictment Laura Wilson, whose name is to the Grand Jury otherwise unknown, unlawfully, and with malice aforethought, killed William Grover Wilson, by administering to him a quantity of poison, to wit; Mercury, a more particular description of which is to the Grand Jury otherwise unknown, against the peace and dignity of the State of Alabama."

The following charges (to which others treated are the same or pertinently similar) were refused to defendant:

"1. The Court charges the jury that if, after considering all the evidence in the case, that tending to show guilt, together with that tending to show innocence, there should spring up involuntarily in the minds of the jury from any part of the evidence, a probability of the innocence of the defendant, the jury must acquit."

"4. The Court charges the jury that the testimony of a witness for the prosecution, who is shown to be unworthy of credit, is not sufficient to justify a conviction without corroborating evidence; and such corroborating evidence, to avail anything, must be a fact tending to show the guilt of the defendant."

"5. I charge you, gentlemen of the jury, as a matter of law, that the highest type of character is often one whose character is never discussed by those who know him or her."

"6. I charge you, gentlemen of the jury, that every person is presumed to have a good character, and the fact that the character of the person is never discussed among those of his or her acquaintance, or by others in the community in which he or she lived, is the best evidence that such person is of good character."

"11. The court charges the jury that the burden is upon the State, and it is the duty of the State to show, beyond all reasonable doubt, and to the exclusion of every other reasonable hypothesis every circumstance necessary to show that the defendant is guilty; and, unless the State has done that in this case, it is your duty, gentlemen of the jury, to render a verdict of not guilty."

"14. The Court charges the jury that all the evidence against the defendant in this case is circumstantial, and her innocence should be presumed by the jury until her guilt is established by the evidence, in all the material aspects of the case, beyond a reasonable doubt, and to a moral certainty."

"16. The Court charges the jury that if they believe, from the evidence in this case, that the witness, Hugh Mullen, has willfully and corruptly sworn falsely as to any material fact in this case, you may, in your discretion, disregard his testimony entirely."

"19. The Court charges the jury that you are not bound by the opinion of experts, and you may be guided by your own conclusions based on the facts presented to you by the evidence." "20. The Court charges the jury that you are not bound by the opinion of experts, or by the apparent weight of evidence, but you may give your own conclusions."

"21. The Court charges the Jury that you are not bound by the opinion of experts."

"22. The Court charges the jury that you may, in the exercise of your discretion, disregard any opinion expressed to you by an expert."

"23. The Court charges the jury that the testimony of an expert, such as a physician, in good standing, is admissible on medical questions, not as being positively binding on the jury, but as throwing light on the question about which such physician testifies, and the testimony of such physician goes to the jury for what it is worth, not to be absolutely binding unless the jury find so, in its opinion and discretion."

"24. I charge you, gentlemen of the jury, that it is within your province to accept or reject any or all the testimony of expert witnesses on matters as to which they express an opinion."

"25. I charge you, gentlemen of the jury, that when the testimony of any expert witness in regard to matters of opinion, is contrary to your common knowledge, you do not have to accept the statement of such expert witness in regard to such matters of opinion."

"27. I charge you, gentlemen of the jury, that in evaluating the testimony of any witness who has testified as an expert, it is within your province to consider, in connection with his testimony in regard to matters as to which he has expressed an opinion as an expert, the qualifications of such witness as an expert on the question as to which he so testifies."

"29. The Court charges the jury that if there is one single fact proved to the satisfaction of the jury which is inconsistent with the defendant's guilt, this is sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt, and the jury should acquit her."

"30. The Court charges the jury that defendant cannot be convicted in this case unless each and every juror is not only reasonably satisfied from the evidence of defendant's guilt, but is satisfied from the evidence alone, beyond all reasonable doubt, and to a moral certainty, of her guilt."

"32. The Court charges the jury that each juryman must be separately satisfied, beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty, that defendant is guilty of the crime charged or you cannot convict her."

"33. The Court charges the jury that if they believe, from the evidence in this case, that the witness T. Houston Evans, has willfully and corruptly sworn falsely as to any material fact in this case, you may in your discretion, disregard his testimony entirely."

"34. The Court charges the jury that if the guilt of the defendant depends on the testimony of the witness, T. Houston Evans, and the jury believes from all the evidence that the testimony of said witness willfully and maliciously fails as to any material part of his said testimony, then the jury may disregard all of the testimony of the said witness, T. Houston Evans, and find the defendant not guilty."

"41. The Court charges the jury that if there is a probability of the innocence of the defendant, you must acquit her."

"44. The Court charges the jury that although there may be no probability of the innocence of the defendant, yet, if there is in the minds of the jury a reasonable doubt of her guilt, it is the duty of the jury to give her the benefit of the doubt and acquit her."

"45. The Court charges the jury that if, from the testimony, there is probability of defendant's innocence, that is a just ground for a reasonable doubt; and, if such probability exists in this case, you cannot convict the defendant."

"51. A. The Court charges the jury that a person charged with a felony should not be convicted, unless the evidence excludes to a moral certainty every reasonable hypothesis but that of his guilt; no matter how strong the circumstances are they do not come up to the full measure of proof, which the law requires if they can be reasonably reconciled with the theory that the defendant is innocent."

"67. The Court charges the jury that the innocence of defendant is presumed until her guilt is established by the evidence in all the material aspects of the case, beyond a reasonable doubt, to a moral certainty, and it may also be said that evidence of guilt must be strong and cogent, and, unless it is so strong and cogent as to show that defendant is guilty to a moral certainty, defendant should be acquitted."

C. L. Hybart, of Monroeville, Frank G. Horne, of Atmore, and Chas. Arendall, Jr., of Mobile, for appellant.

Thos. S. Lawson, Atty. Gen., and John O. Harris, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.

THOMAS, Justice.

The indictment and conviction were for murder under counts 1 and 4.

Demurrer to the indictment challenged the sufficiency of counts 2 and 3 in that the death was charged to have been caused by administering to him a quantity of poison.

The third, ground of demurrer pointed out that said counts do not set forth, with the certainty required by law, the means used by the defendant in killing the deceased. The 4th, 5th and 8th grounds of demurrer charge that it is not shown with the certainty required by law the name or kind of poison that defendant administered to the deceased. The demurrer was overruled.

At common law the averment of the means by which the offense charged was committed was necessary to a sufficient indictment for murder or manslaughter. The form of indictment prescribed by the statute for murder requires an averment of the means with which the offense was committed. These forms of indictment provide for an averment of the means with which the offense was committed or that the same are unknown to the grand jury. Without such averments, indictments have been held to be defective and subject to appropriate demurrer. The subject of murder is embraced in Code 1940, T. 14,§ 314 et seq.; and forms of indictment required in felonies in T. 15 § 259, forms 75, 79, 80 and 81.

The requirement for indictments are indicated in Hornsby v State, 94 Ala. 55, 10 So. 522, 525. Therein it is stated: "The indictment must be examined, under the rules of the common law, as if it contained two counts; the first charging that the offense was committed by stabbing with a knife, and the second by stabbing with a weapon. The first count undoubtedly would be sufficient. Is there such a description of...

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