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Voluntary manslaughter. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Alverson. November 14, 1957.
1. Where a witness volunteers an answer unresponsive to the question which tends to put the defendant's character in issue, the court should by every means possible attempt to eradicate the prejudicial remark from the jury's consideration, and, if there is any likelihood that such means as he uses will not be completely successful, he should grant a timely motion for a mistrial. The court, however, has much discretion in the matter, and in view of the instructions given here, the denial of the motion for mistrial did not constitute an abuse of discretion.
2. Where the jury is in possession of all the facts, it is not error, even on cross-examination, to exclude opinionative evidence as to a nontechnical matter.
3. The admission in evidence of the death certificate of the deceased was not error for any reason assigned.
4. The statement that the jury would be "authorized" to acquit under certain circumstances is technically error as the word suggests a discretion with which the jury was not invested. In view of the charge as a whole, however, no prejudicial error resulted.
5. Where the judge in his charge makes it clear that the issue of involuntary manslaughter is not being submitted to the jury, the fact that he reads Code 26-1006 in its entirety, thus including the definitions of both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, is not error, since its only effect is to define more clearly the distinction between the offenses.
6. The evidence was sufficient to support a finding by the jury that the defendant shot and killed in the heat of passion engendered by a violent quarrel, and while attempting to repel an assault upon him less than a felony, and did not demand a finding that he was forced to kill in order to protect his own life. Accordingly, the verdict of guilty of manslaughter was supported by evidence and the general grounds of the motion for new trial are without merit.
Charlie Frank Hollis was indicted in the Superior Court of Fulton County for the offense of murder and was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. He made a motion for new trial on the general grounds which was later amended by the addition of 7 special grounds, and the denial of this motion is assigned as error.
1. Counsel for the defendant moved for a mistrial because during his cross-examination of a policeman testifying as a witness for the State the witness volunteered the remark, "I just know he is hard to get the truth out of. I know that," and again moved for a mistrial because the same witness while on cross-examination at another point volunteered, also in reference to the defendant, "He is pretty nervous when he gets in trouble." On both occasions the court instructed the jury to disregard the remark and not consider it in the case, and then denied the motion for mistrial. It is contended that these remarks put the defendant's character in issue as indicating that he had been previously arrested or questioned and had been in other difficulties with the police.
In Hubbard v. State, 208 Ga. 472, 475 (67 S. E. 2d 562), counsel moved for a mistrial because a police officer on cross-examination volunteered: "On several occasions I have had to go down there and arrest him before then," and the judge ruled out the evidence but refused to grant a mistrial. The court held: "It will be noted that counsel for the defendant was responsible for eliciting the answer complained of in this ground. The trial judge, acting immediately, ruled out the evidence, thereby removing it from the consideration of the jury. We cannot say, under the circumstances of this case, that this action by the trial judge did not afford the defendant all the protection to which he was entitled under the law." In Flournoy v. State, 82 Ga. App. 518 (1) (61 S. E. 2d 556), where a witness volunteered that a third person, in the defendant's presence, had stated: "Louie has been in this liquor business a pretty good while," it was held that, where the objectionable matter was volunteered by the witness and the court takes the proper corrective measures by excluding the testimony and instructing the jury not to consider it, the refusal to declare a mistrial is ordinarily not an abuse of discretion. See also Carrigan v. State, 206 Ga. 707 (3) (58 S. E. 2d 407); Stanford v. State, 201 Ga. 173 (3) (38 S. E. 2d 823); Wells v. State, 194 Ga. 70 (4) (20 S. E. 2d 580); Tye v. State, 198 Ga. 262 (4) (31 S. E. 2d 471). These two grounds of the amended motion for new trial afford no cause for reversal.
2. Two other special grounds complain that the movant's right to a thorough and sifting cross-examination was abridged because a witness for the State, who had testified that the victim of the shooting picked up a piece of concrete about 2 by 4 by 8 inches, broke it in half and from a distance of 14 feet drew back to throw the pieces at the defendant, was not allowed to answer on cross-examination the questions: "Do you think it would hurt somebody if they were hit with it?" and "Have you ever seen anybody hit with a rock or anything like that?" In Moran v. State, 120 Ga. 846 (1) (48 S. E. 324) it was held: "Whether a stick exhibited to the jury was a deadly weapon was not matter to be proved by the opinion of a nonexpert, the jury being as competent as the witness to determine whether it was an instrument likely to produce death." Where the jury is in possession of all the facts, the opinion of a witness as to nontechnical matters is generally inadmissible, and here the questions were not particularly valuable in testing the recollection or veracity of the witness. The exclusion of this evidence is not ground for a new trial.
3. The evidence in this case showed that the defendant had been living with the victim for some time and referred to her as his wife, and that she was generally known as his wife, but fails to show that there had been any marriage between them. The evidence shows without dispute that the woman referred to in the indictment as Phyllis Burton, and so designated by some of the witnesses, was the same woman who was known as the wife of Charlie Frank Hollis, and whose name appeared on the death certificate as Phyllis Hollis. Under these circumstances it was not error to admit the death certificate in evidence over the sole objection that "There is no Phyllis Hollis connected with the case." This ground is without merit.
4. In special ground 6 error is assigned on a charge of the court that if the State proves the material allegations of the indictment to the satisfaction of the jury and beyond a reasonable doubt they would be authorized to convict, but, if not, they would be authorized to acquit. The wording is inapt since in either event the jury has no discretion, but is under the duty to acquit or convict according to whether or not the State has carried its burden of proving the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. In Grantham v. State, 120 Ga. 160 (3) (47 S. E. 518), a charge that the jury would be authorized to find the defendant not guilty if the State failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt was held not prejudicial in view of the charge as a whole. The court here stated in another place, "Gentlemen, if you do not believe the defendant to be guilty of murder as charged in the indictment, or if you should have a reasonable doubt as to his guilt of murder, then you should acquit the defendant in this case," and made a like charge as to the crime of voluntary manslaughter. The use of the word "authorized" twice, referring on the one hand to conviction and on the other to acquittal, does not suggest a power of discretion to be used against the defendant, and, in view of the charge as a whole, it is not prejudicial as casting an undue burden upon him. This ground is without merit.
6. The evidence, which is for the most part undisputed, is to the effect that the victim, Phyllis, was rough and quarrelsome when drunk; that she was drinking on the day in question; that she quarreled two or three times with the defendant and eventually came to where he was sitting on the front porch of a neighbor's house and threatened to kill him; that she picked up a piece of concrete, broke it in half, and either threw or threatened to throw one of the pieces at the defendant. He retreated toward his house, then reached through a window for his pistol and fired it three times at the woman, inflicting wounds which resulted in her death. Whether or not he was acting under the fears of a reasonable man; whether or not the woman intended to and was capable of committing a felony upon him at that time, and whether or not he believed as a reasonable man that he was unable to protect himself except by killing her, were issues for the jury to decide. The evidence does not demand a verdict of justifiable homicide under all the circumstances of this affray. On the other hand it authorizes the verdict of guilty of voluntary manslaughter and accordingly the general grounds of the motion for new trial are not meritorious.
The trial court did not err in denying the motion for new trial.
Judgment affirmed. Gardner, P. J., and Carlisle, J., concur.
Paul Webb, Solicitor-General, Thomas R. Luck, Jr., Eugene L. Tiller, contra.
Scott Walters, Jr., Albert A. Roberts, for plaintiff in error.
Saturday May 23 01:18 EDT

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