STATE v. CRICK Nos. 18080, 18219.
675 P.2d 527 (1983)
The STATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Charles L. CRICK, et al., Defendant and Appellant. STATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Mary HOLLOWAY, aka Mary V. Creighton, Defendant and Appellant.
Supreme Court of Utah.
November 9, 1983.
David L. Wilkinson, Atty. Gen., Earl F. Dorius, Asst. Atty. Gen., Salt Lake City, for plaintiff and respondent.
Samuel Beare died of multiple stab wounds to his chest, any one of which could have been fatal. His body was found when a witness saw it removed from a car and deposited on the ground by one Garcia in the presence of defendants Crick and Holloway. Garcia had a separate trial, and this Court affirmed his conviction of second degree murder. State v. Garcia, Utah,
In this appeal from their convictions of second degree murder, defendants Crick and Holloway have but one assignment of error: the refusal of their request to have the jury instructed on the lesser included offense of manslaughter. That single question, properly preserved at trial, raises fundamental issues on the content and administration of the rules of lesser included offenses in the various crimes of homicide.
Defendants' argument has three steps: (1) Manslaughter is a lesser included offense of second degree murder. (2) If there is any evidence on any reasonable theory of the case under which the defendants might be convicted of that lesser included offense, they have a right to a jury instruction on that offense. State v. Dougherty, Utah,
I. LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSES IN CRIMINAL HOMICIDE
We agree that manslaughter is a lesser included offense of second degree murder, but for reasons different from those cited in the parties' briefs. There are scores of decisions elaborating the rules on lesser included offenses under the statutory and decisional law that preceded our Criminal Code, but those cases are no longer entirely on point on these questions.
Utah adopted a new Criminal Code in 1973. U.C.A., 1953, § 76-1-101 to § 76-10-1401. Although often termed a "codification" of the common law, this Code in fact changed the definitions of various crimes. It also made important changes in the definition of the lesser included offense and in the rules governing the relationship between greater and lesser offenses. Consequently, cases decided under prior statutes are not automatic precedents to govern similar questions under the new Criminal Code. The old precedents must be viewed with caution.
The starting point is the language of the new Code. So far as pertinent in this case, § 76-1-402 provides as follows:
Subsection (3) defines the lesser included offense, and subsection (4) dictates the rule for charging the jury in respect to the lesser included offense.
Subsection (3)(a) states the rule for identifying lesser included offenses that are not otherwise specified in the statute (such as in (b) and (c)). Subsection (3) (a) is authoritatively construed in State v. Baker, Utah,
Subsection (3)(c) specifies that an offense is a lesser included offense when
In the succeeding sections, the Code sets out the statutory definitions of the various types of criminal homicide, each (except for automobile homicide) in descending order of seriousness. This structure — notably the identification of the crime of criminal homicide and the specification of common elements in § 76-5-201, and the relationships inherent in the succeeding sections — fulfills the § 76-1-402(3)(c) requirement of specific (statutory) designation of a lesser included offense. Consequently, all of the various degrees of homicide have the relationship of greater and lesser included offenses.
II. JURY INSTRUCTIONS ON LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSES
Defendants argue that they have a right to an instruction on any lesser included offense for which, on any reasonable theory of the case, there is any evidentiary basis to convict them. Holloway even argues that there is a presumption that a lesser included instruction requested by a defendant should be given, even when it is inconsistent with the evidence at trial. And Crick argues that in determining the degree of homicide of which a defendant is guilty "the jury may consider not only the nature of the killing, but also the personal turpitude of the defendant." The thrust of defendants' arguments is that the jury should be free to convict defendants of a lesser included offense without regard to whether they are guilty of the charged offense.
Whatever merit defendants' argument might have claimed under prior law, it was specifically rejected in our unanimous decision in State v. Baker, 671 P.2d, at 159:
(Bracketed numbers added.) Defendants' argument and the pre-Code authorities they cite are consistent with the second element in § 76-1-402(4), but they ignore the first element. In short, as we recognized in Baker, our Criminal Code added the requirement that the evidence must provide a rational basis for both acquitting of the charged offense and convicting of the lesser included offense.
This is the clear and stated purpose of the Model Penal Code provision from which § 76-1-402(4) is copied verbatim. Thus, the reporter's note states that where the evidence would not justify any verdict other than conviction or acquittal of the charged offense, an instruction on an included offense would be improper because it "might well be an invitation to the jury to return a compromise or otherwise unwarranted verdict." Consequently, the note continues, "The submission of an included crime is justified only where there is some basis in the evidence for finding the defendant innocent of the crime charged and yet guilty of the included crime. People v. Mussenden [
For these reasons, it is not sufficient merely "to determine if there exists [a] reasonable basis upon which a conviction of the lesser offense could rest," as was suggested in State v. Dougherty, 550 P.2d at 176, and other cases decided under the pre-Code law. Insofar as any post-Code cases have quoted or relied on this language, as was done in State v. Chesnut, Utah,
Most of our authorities are consistent with the foregoing interpretation of the Code provision. Thus, in State v. Elliott, Utah,
Similarly, in State v. Bender, Utah,
Id. at 1020-21 (emphasis in original). To the same effect is State v. Bell, Utah,
In determining whether there is a "rational basis" for acquitting the defendant of the offense charged and convicting him of a lesser included offense, the court must, of course, view the evidence and the inferences that can be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the defense. State v. Gillian, 23 Utah 2d at 376, 463 P.2d at 814. Similarly, as we said more recently in State v. Baker, 671 P.2d at 159:
Our construction of § 76-1-402(4) is consistent with the purpose of the rules that establish the relationship of greater and lesser offenses and assign consequences to that relationship. In the familiar circumstance where all the facts required to prove the commission of the lesser offense are included within the facts required to establish the commission of the offense charged (§ 76-1-402(3)(a)), the evidence that could serve as a basis for convicting of the greater offense could always serve as the basis for convicting of any lesser offense. If the jury were free to acquit of the greater offense and convict of any lesser offense simply because the lesser offense had been proved, this would allow the jury to preempt the prosecutor's function in charging offenses and the judge's function in imposing sentences.
We note in passing that we have recently reaffirmed the principle that a defendant may be convicted of a lesser included offense even where the lesser offense has not been charged and the defendant has not requested such an instruction. State v. Dyer, Utah,
We conclude that defendants were not entitled to have the jury instructed on the lesser included offense of manslaughter unless the evidence provided a rational basis upon which the jury could acquit them of second degree murder and convict them of manslaughter. We proceed to that inquiry.
III. THE EVIDENCE
The evidence that is urged to provide a rational basis for the jury to acquit of second degree murder and convict of manslaughter came principally from the testimony of defendants Crick and Holloway. For purposes of judging its sufficiency to require an instruction on the lesser included offense, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the defense.
Both Crick and Holloway gave the same description of the event. The four participants had been drinking and watching TV at the apartment shared by Crick and Holloway, where Beare (the victim) was a temporary overnight guest due to marital problems. Beare made a racial slur against Garcia. These two then fought with their fists. When Beare was knocked senseless, Garcia continued to beat him, hitting him with one or more unidentified objects seized in the room. Holloway and Crick took no part in the fight, except that Crick, in response to Holloway's urging, once attempted to pull Garcia off Beare "when it got out of hand," but Garcia knocked him away.
Garcia dragged Beare (still senseless) out of the apartment and put him in the hatch-back part of Beare's car. The three then drove until the car ran out of gas in a Salt Lake City neighborhood. Garcia pulled Beare's body out of the car and dragged it over on the grass while Crick and Holloway waited in the car. During this time, Crick saw dimly through the rear-view mirror an object in Garcia's hand going up and down over Beare.
When Garcia returned to the car, Holloway saw that he had a knife in his hand, and he was covered with blood. This was the first point in the events of that night when either Crick or Holloway mentioned a knife. Holloway testified that when she talked to a friend about Beare the next day she did not know Beare had been stabbed. Both Crick and Holloway insisted that they at no time stabbed Beare or even hit him or participated in the fight in any way. The medical examiner testified that Beare had been stabbed 15 times in the chest and torso, to a depth of seven or eight inches. Any one of these wounds could have caused his death.
Defendants' testimony obviously provided a basis upon which the jury could have acquitted them of second degree murder. (We do not detail the evidence upon which the jury convicted the defendants, since they do not challenge its sufficiency.
Arguing that she "is basically in a position of an accomplice,"
This argument fails. A defendant can be criminally responsible for an act committed by another, but the degree of his responsibility is determined by his own mental state in the acts that subject him to such responsibility, not by the mental state of the actor. This is clear from the language of § 76-2-202, quoted in note 7 supra. Otherwise, a designing person could use a madman to kill another and mitigate his own responsibility by reference to the derangements of the person he had used to accomplish his purposes. The law is otherwise. Since there was no evidence at trial that Holloway, as an accomplice, had acted recklessly or under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance or with a reasonable belief that the circumstances provided a moral or legal justification or extenuation, there was no basis in the record to convict her of manslaughter on the theory that she was an accomplice of Garcia's.
The defendants' convictions of second degree murder are affirmed.
HALL, C.J., and HOWE and DURHAM, JJ., concur.
STEWART, Justice (dissenting):
I concur with the majority opinion in holding that reckless manslaughter is a lesser included offense of second degree murder, but I cannot subscribe to the reasoning of the Court in support of that proposition or to the conclusion that a manslaughter instruction need not have been given in this case. I had thought that our recent opinion in State v. Baker, Utah,
Probably no other doctrine of the criminal law has been addressed as frequently over the past few years by this Court as the doctrine of lesser included offenses. Since 1978 this Court has referred to that doctrine in no less than twenty-five different opinions. The problem that this Court has wrestled with must have also been encountered in a magnified form in the trial courts.
In the instant case the Court unnecessarily adopts a different analysis and in effect, however unintentional, invites the giving of a lesser included offense instruction tendered by the State when it would violate a defendant's constitutional right of notice. Why the Court chooses to depart from the analysis in State v. Baker is not clear to me; more important, it is fraught with potential mischief.
Section 76-1-402(3) sets forth three categories of lesser included offenses:
State v. Baker was decided under subparagraph (a). The Court, in the instant case, decides the case under subparagraph (c), although it could just as well have been decided under subparagraph (a) with exactly the same result. The majority's theory in this case is that § 76-5-201 designates each of the homicide offenses as a lesser included offense of a greater homicide offense.
Section 76-5-201(1) and (2) of the criminal code states:
The majority position that § 76-5-201 constitutes a statute which "specifically designates" lesser included offenses, is a stretch of the statutory language. On its face, § 76-5-201 does not "specifically" designate any lesser included offenses. Furthermore, all homicide crimes are not necessarily lesser included crimes. There are simply too many instances of lesser homicide offenses including elements not included in a greater offense. If the trial courts were to take this Court at its word in the instant case, they could give a state-proposed lesser included offense instruction that would unconstitutionally deny a defendant adequate notice of the crime for which he was convicted in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. Faretta v. California,
Since first degree murder obviously cannot be a lesser included offense, it necessarily follows that only those degrees of homicide less than first degree can be considered lesser included offenses. A cursory inspection of the second degree murder statute, § 76-5-203; the manslaughter statute, § 76-5-205; the negligent homicide statute, § 76-5-206; and the automobile homicide statute, § 76-5-207, makes clear that there may be elements and facts of each of the degrees of homicide that are not included in the greater offense. Although a negligent homicide charge, for example, will almost always, if not always, constitute a lesser included offense of a charge of manslaughter, it does not necessarily follow that all lesser homicide offenses are included in a greater homicide charge. In general, each lesser charge tendered by the State will have to be analyzed with great care to avoid unconstitutionality. Clearly, some of the lesser homicide offenses are not lesser included offenses of a greater offense.
Under State v. Baker, supra, if a defendant requests an instruction on a homicide offense of a lesser degree than that charged, he is entitled to that instruction if there is some rational basis in the evidence to support the elements of that particular offense. It should be plain that the question is whether the jury could possibly find as the defendant requests, and not whether the trial judge, or an appellate judge, is of the view that the defendant is not guilty of the greater offense. For a trial judge to rule on that question on the basis of whether he or she thinks the defendant is guilty of the offense charged would be to usurp the constitutional right of a defendant to a jury trial on the issues which he is entitled to have submitted to the jury. This Court in State v. Gillian,
See also State v. Castillo,
In sum, a refusal to submit a defendant's instruction on a lesser included offense would constitute a denial of the defendant's constitutional rights to trial by jury and due process of law if there is any substantial evidence to justify the instruction. See Beck v. Alabama,
A State request for a lesser included offense instruction must be decided on a different basis. Fundamental to the criminal law is the principle that a defendant cannot be fairly and constitutionally prosecuted unless he has been put on fair notice of the exact nature of the charge made against him by the State. Faretta v. California,
If a homicide charge lesser than that charged in the information is included in the instructions at the instance of the prosecution, it may only be done upon the most careful and precise analysis of "all the facts required to establish the commission of the offense charged," § 76-1-402, see State v. Howell, supra, and the conclusion that no facts beyond those necessary to establish the offense as charged are necessary to make out the lesser included offense; if additional facts are necessary to prove the lesser offense, a lesser included offense instruction may not be given even though such facts may be in the record because of the defendant's lack of opportunity to prepare to rebut those facts; and the giving of the instruction would not prejudice the defendant in presenting his proof or affirmative defenses. In a homicide case, however, where the differences between the lesser and greater offenses are simply in the characterization of the defendant's mental state — recklessness versus negligence, for example — an instruction on the lesser included offense should be given since it is the jury who are preeminently qualified and constitutionally charged to make such judgments, and decidedly not judges, either trial or appellate.
The majority in the instant case ignores these principles in determining, as a matter of law, that all criminal homicide cases constitute a lesser offense of a greater homicide offense. Furthermore, in determining when a lesser included offense instruction should be given, the Court states:
That language seems to be an invitation to trial judges to intrude unconstitutionally on the prerogatives of the jury and on the constitutional right of a defendant to have his case decided by a jury and not a judge.
The Court's more solicitous attitude toward the "prosecutor's function in charging offenses, and the judge's function in
In addition, it is inappropriate to contend that allowing a jury to render a verdict on a lesser included offense, when it could also convict of a greater offense, somehow "preempts the prosecutor's function." That is not the case. The prosecutor made his charges long before the jury was ever empaneled. Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that on occasion prosecutors, despite the Code of Professional Responsibility, overcharge for the purpose of obtaining a favorable plea bargain. Indeed, I submit that there have been a number of cases which have been before this Court where it has been clear from the record that a prosecutor has, for example, charged second degree murder when in fact the defendant should have been convicted of manslaughter or criminal negligence.
The enshrinement of the right to a jury trial in our Constitution was based upon a centuries-long tradition of reliance upon juries to mitigate and counter any overreaching by the State. Since such has been our long tradition and our hard-won heritage, I would adhere to that view and emphatically hold that it is for the jury to decide, not an agent of the State, which of several closely related criminal offenses appropriately describes the acts committed by a defendant. However, the jury is preempted from performing that function if the judge may first "weigh" the evidence to decide whether the defendant should be acquitted of the charged offense before the judge gives the lesser offense instruction.
Nor is there a logical foundation for the majority's assertion that allowing a jury to decide which charge best fits the defendant's conduct somehow preempts a judge's function of sentencing. That function is to pronounce sentence on the crime proved and the verdict rendered.
I recognize that § 76-1-402(4) states that a court "shall not be obligated to charge the jury with respect to an included offense unless there is a rational basis for a verdict acquitting the defendant of the offense charged and convicting him of the included offense." For the reasons stated in State v. Baker, I submit that subsections (3) and (4) of § 76-1-402 apply only to the prosecution. But if subsection (4) is construed to be applicable to both the prosecution and the defense, then that section must be construed to accord recognition to the clear-cut constitutional values at stake — most importantly the right to a jury trial.
It is preeminently the function of the jury to assess credibility; that is not a function of judges, trial or appellate. In most cases, therefore, the trial judge, in deciding whether to give a defendant's proposed lesser included instruction, will have to take into account the possibility that the jury may disbelieve the testimony relating to the additional element of the greater offense. Thus, for example, a charge of reckless homicide will almost always, if not always, require a lesser included offense instruction on criminal negligence if sought by the defendant. Essentially, the difference between the two is how one characterizes the state of mind of the defendant in determining whether he was reckless or negligent in performing a prohibited act, and that is a question which a jury ought to decide because there will always be a "rational basis" for acquitting on recklessness and convicting on criminal negligence. It is the kind of question that a group of persons supposedly representing a cross section of the community is better equipped to decide than is one person. In all events, the giving of a lesser included offense instruction no more interferes with the prosecutorial function of charging an offense, or with the judicial function of imposing sentence, than does the jury's right to acquit.
Finally, a 1980 amendment to the criminal code in effect requires the same construction
Finally, the majority states that in determining whether a lesser included offense instruction should be given at the behest of a defendant, the court must view the evidence and inferences that can be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the defense. State v. Gillian,
The person who was most clearly responsible for the killing in this case was Thomas Garcia. In a separate suit, he was convicted of second degree murder — the same murder which is the subject of the instant action. However, the degree of culpability of the defendants in this case under the second degree murder statute is less clear than was Garcia's.
Although defendants' claims of innocence are hardly compelling, I think the evidence — which I shall not review — warranted an instruction on manslaughter. The jury deliberated some eleven hours; it must have had some doubts on critical points, at least as to one of the defendants. Indeed, the difference in the evidence of culpability in the Garcia case and the instant case may well have been the reason why Garcia and the defendants in the instant case were tried separately. I submit that the jury should have been given a manslaughter instruction and a choice between a second degree murder conviction and manslaughter conviction.
In my view, the defendants are entitled to be retried.
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