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Hyde v. State

Decided: March 28, 1962.


Appeal from the Circuit Court for Baltimore County; Raine, J.

Henderson, Prescott, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Prescott, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.


Appellant was found guilty of murder in the first degree in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County by a trial judge, sitting without a jury, and, after being sentenced to life imprisonment, has appealed.

On December 20, 1960, at about 10:15 a.m., Dolores Allan was found dead, lying on the floor of her home on Baltimore Street in Baltimore County. The cause of death was stab wounds in her chest and back. The appellant, who lived a short distance down the street from the deceased, had been observed rapping on the Allan door at about 8:45 a.m. by the deceased's next-door neighbor. He did not gain admission into the home at this time, but the same witness saw him again at about 10:00 a.m.; this time he was coming out of the Allan home. Another neighbor, Susana Thatcher, "heard a bump" at approximately 9:45 a.m., and upon looking out her front door, saw the appellant coming down the Allan walk. Very shortly thereafter, a young child of the deceased came to the Thatcher home; "he was covered with blood." Jean Barello, another neighbor, upon being summoned by Mrs. Thatcher, carried the boy back to his house, and found his mother lying on the floor in a large pool of blood, with a piece of furniture on top of her. Acting upon information received from the neighbors, the police called upon the appellant at his home, arriving there around 10:30 a.m. As a result of what the neighbors and the appellant told the police and of finding blood-stained clothing in an automatic washer in the basement and also a sharp-pointed knife, the appellant was arrested and taken to the Essex Station. More facts will be added, when necessary, in dealing with the contentions made by the appellant.


The first question posed by appellant's counsel in their brief is a claim that the appellant was legally insane at the time the offense was committed. The question of whether the

mental capacity of an accused is sufficient to establish responsibility for criminal offenses is a mixed one of law and fact. The test to be applied in measuring the mental capacity and the degree of proof essential to establish such capacity are questions of law, but weighing the evidence and determining whether a defendant has the mental capacity required by such test is one of fact. In the instant case, the court applied the test of mental capacity that was held to be the proper one in the recent case of Armstead v. State, 227 Md. 73, 175 A.2d 24. He also found that he was convinced of the appellant's sanity beyond any reasonable doubt. Cf. Thomas v. State, 206 Md. 575, 587, 112 A.2d 913; Lipscomb v. State, 223 Md. 599, 604, 165 A.2d 918.

Of course, there is a presumption that persons are sane and responsible for their acts at the time an offense is committed. Lipscomb v. State, supra. At the trial below, three psychiatrists testified: two were of the opinion that the appellant was a responsible agent at the time the offense was committed; one had an opinion to the contrary. He agreed that the accused was sane at the time of trial, but not when Mrs. Allan was killed. It would unduly prolong this opinion to set forth their testimony at length. Suffice it to say that after a careful reading of their testimony and due consideration of the reasons given by them for their conclusions, we cannot say the trial judge was in error in his finding, much less "clearly erroneous." Maryland Rule 886 a.

An unusual situation is presented under this heading. As we have just pointed out, appellant's counsel presented, in appellant's brief and at oral argument, the question of mental incapacity. However, they also present in the brief a "point raised at [the] express direction of defendant" to the effect that the issue of mental capacity had been raised by defense counsel (trial counsel was different from counsel on appeal) "without consultation with defendant" and "with full knowledge that Clifton T. Perkins Hospital had pronounced [appellant] sane." Whether trial counsel, under certain circumstances, have the right to interpose a plea of insanity in a criminal case contrary to the wishes and instructions of the defendant

presents a rather interesting question,*fn1 but we are not called upon to determine it here, since we have already held that the trial court's finding of appellant's mental capacity was correct.


The appellant next raises the contention that the evidence, even though it discloses a killing by the defendant when he was sane, fails to show premeditation, which is required by Code (1957), Article 27, ยง 407, to sustain a conviction of first degree murder. He does not question the fact that the homicide was wilful and deliberate, apparently due to the severity and deadly nature of the wounds inflicted. This means that appellant does not deny that he had a specific design to kill (wilfulness) and that he had a full and conscious knowledge of a purpose to kill (deliberation), but contends that he went into a "rage"; that he had no motivation to murder the deceased; that his "mental posture," causing effects substantially similar to drunkenness or heat of passion, "might necessarily negate premeditation."

"Premeditated" means that the killing must have been meditated, planned in the mind, beforehand; that the design to kill must have preceded the killing by an appreciable length of time, time enough to deliberate; and in order to justify a conviction of first degree murder, the trier of facts must find the actual intent (wilfulness), the fully formed purpose to kill (deliberation), with enough time for deliberation and premeditation to convince the trier of facts that this purpose is not the immediate offspring of rashness and impetuous temper (lack of deliberation and premeditation), but that the mind has become fully conscious of its own design. Although the design to kill must precede the killing by some appreciable length of time, that time need not be long. If the killing be not the instant effect of impulse, if there be hesitation or doubt to overcome, a choice made as the result of thought, however short the struggle between the intention and the act, it is sufficient to characterize the crime as deliberate and premeditated

murder. Cummings v. State, 223 Md. 606, 165 A.2d 886; Faulcon v. State, 211 Md. 249, 126 A.2d 858; Dunn v. State, 226 Md. 463, 174 A.2d 185; Chisley v. State, 202 Md. 87, 106, 95 A.2d 577. And the question of premeditation must be determined by the facts of ...

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