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Lawskills.com Georgia Caselaw
ARMSTRONG v. THE STATE.
35143.
Voluntary manslaughter. Before Judge Kennedy. Richmond Superior Court. February 15, 1954.
GARDNER, P. J.
1. The general grounds are without merit.
2. So much of the act of the General Assembly (Ga. L. 1951, p. 291 et seq.) which provides that a juvenile under the age of 17 years, who is charged with a felonious crime, shall be tried in the juvenile court and in no other court, is unconstitutional. Jackson v. Balkcom, 210 Ga. 412 (80 S. E. 2d 319). The Constitution of Georgia vests in the superior court of this State the jurisdiction to try a juvenile offender for a felony, if such juvenile has reached 14 years of age, or before that age if the juvenile can distinguish between good and evil.
The defendant was indicted for murder in the killing of Robert Lee by cutting and stabbing him in the neck. The evidence, briefly, shows: that the deceased and the defendant, together with several other young people, both boys and girls, went on a "spree" on Saturday night; that they went to several places and engaged in drinking and dancing, and in the early morning they started home; that the deceased was operating a car in which the defendant and another girl were riding; that the deceased and one of the girls got out of the car; that the deceased drove a short, distance from where the defendant and a girl companion were standing; then it was that the deceased and the defendant became engaged in a difficulty; that the deceased took hold of the defendant and was endeavoring to get her to let him take her to the home of the defendant; that during this difficulty the defendant cut and stabbed the deceased in the neck and inflicted a wound from which the deceased died within a short time. When called upon to plead to the indictment, counsel representing the defendant filed a special plea to the jurisdiction, alleging that the court was without jurisdictional authority over the defendant to try her. The special plea was based on a 1951 act of the General Assembly (Ga. L. 1951, pp. 291-299). That act provides that, during the pendency of a criminal charge against any minor under the age of 17 years, in any court other than the juvenile court, it shall be the duty of such court to transfer forthwith that case and the papers in connection therewith to the juvenile court. In the special plea it was alleged that the defendant was only 14 years of age, and that the superior court had no jurisdiction of the person of the defendant. The Skate made an oral motion to dismiss the plea, and the court dismissed it. The defendant entered a plea of not guilty. The jury returned a verdict finding the defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The defendant filed a motion for new trial on the statutory grounds. The attack upon the judgment on the plea was preserved by proper exceptions. The court denied the motion for new trial and overruled this special plea. Error is assigned here on the judgment overruling the special plea and on the judgment refusing a new trial.
1. On the general grounds, the evidence amply sustains the verdict of voluntary manslaughter.
2. We come next to inquire whether or not the court erred in denying the plea to the jurisdiction. It may be conceded, without deciding, that the defendant was only 14 year's old. The court did not err in dismissing the plea to the jurisdiction. We call attention to Jackson v. Balkcom, supra, in which the Supreme Court said: "The only contention made by the petitioner for habeas corpus in the present case as to the illegality of his trial and conviction in the Superior Court of Baldwin County for the offense of rape is that under the provisions of the Juvenile Court Act of 1951 (Ga. L. 1951, pp. 291-311; Code, Ann. Supp., Chapter 24-24), the superior court was without jurisdiction to try his case.
"In Hampton v. Stevenson, 210 Ga. 87 (78 S. E. 2d 32), it was held that proceedings under the Juvenile Court Act of 1951 are civil and not criminal, and that such proceedings do not, therefore, violate the Constitution, which provides in article VI, section IV, paragraph I (Code, Ann., 2-3901), that: 'The Superior Courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction . . . in criminal cases where the offender is subjected to loss of life, or confinement in the penitentiary . . .'
"While there is language in Sections 9, 10, 11 and 19 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1951 which might indicate that it was the intention of the General Assembly to give original jurisdiction to the juvenile courts in all cases pertaining to criminal charges against persons less than seventeen years of age, thee is nothing in the Act which would have the effect of repealing Code 26-301, which states the age of criminal responsibility to be '14 years, or before that age if such person know the distinction between good and evil. Jurisdiction to try persons charged with felonies, who are accountable under the law, is fixed by the Constitution to be in the superior courts. Constitution, art. VI, sec. IV, par. I (Code, Ann., 2-3901).
"This court is entirely in sympathy with the beneficent purposes of the Juvenile Court Act of 1951. However, we can only uphold the purposes of the Act consistent with our Constitution. Should any of the provisions of the Juvenile Court Act of 1951 have been intended to withdraw the Jurisdiction of the superior courts to try an offender, within the age of accountability under the law, for an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment, as contended by the petitioner, such provisions would be unconstitutional and could be given no effect. Law v. McCord, 143 Ga. 822 (85 S. E. 1025); Hicks v. State, 146 Ga. 706 (92 S. E. 216); Williams v. Davidson, 147 Ga. 491 (94 S. E. 564); Thomas v. State, 174 Ga. 654 (163 S. E. 734); Mild v. State, 56 Ga. App. 390 (192 S. E. 730).
"The petition for habeas corpus showed no valid reason why the detention of the petitioner was illegal, and the trial court properly sustained the demurrer and remanded the petitioner to the respondent."
The court did not err in overruling the plea to tile jurisdiction of the superior court over the person of the defendant.
Judgment affirmed. Townsend and Carlisle, JJ., concur.
Geo. Hains, Solicitor-General, contra.
Nicholson & Fleming, William Fleming, Jr., for plaintiff in error.
DECIDED MAY 13, 1954.
Saturday May 23 03:23 EDT


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