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Allen v. State

Decided: April 9, 1964.

ALLEN
v.
STATE



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

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

Prescott

After appellant was found guilty of murder in the first degree by a jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County and sentenced to life imprisonment, he appealed. He had pleaded the general issue plea and "not guilty by reason of insanity."

He raises two questions, but in the view we take of the case, we reach only the first: Was it prejudicial error to permit the witness, Dr. Cushard, to express, under the circumstances, his opinion as to defendant's sanity?

On July 3, 1962, Willard Lee Allen entered the Central District police station in Baltimore City, and informed the police that he had killed one Evelyn Johnson. After investigation established the fact of her death, a fifty-two page sworn statement was given them by the defendant in which he admitted the killing. He was committed to Clifton Perkins State Hospital for observation and remained there for slightly less than two months.

During the trial this statement was introduced by the State, but only a part of it was read to the jury.

The autopsy report indicated that Evelyn Johnson died as a result of a "* * * combination of chloroform, gasoline and carbon monoxide inhalation." The report affirmatively stated that there was no evidence of a criminal assault. Lt. Middleton testified that the defendant told him "* * * they had had sexual relations, that the girl had drank quite a good bit and passed out and at that time he chloroformed her, bound the body," and "placed it in the trunk of the automobile * * *."

Dr. William G. Cushard was then called as an expert witness and, after stating his qualifications, testified that the defendant entered Clifton Perkins Hospital on March 6, 1963, and remained there for a little less than two months. He was seen on admission by one of the staff psychiatrists for an interview

to attempt to arrive at a tentative or working diagnosis, and during the remainder of his hospitalization he was under 24 hour observation by nurses and attendants in the hospital. He was later given a complete psychiatric case study including a detailed examination and was interviewed by a social service worker. He received a battery of clinical psychological tests and when all of the information and examinations were completed, the defendant was presented before a medical staff conference, after which each physician gave his opinion regarding the defendant's mental condition. Everyone agreed the appellant was "mentally sick." The doctor further testified: "* * * the purchase of chloroform, the purchase of rope, and all this was preparatory to carrying out the compulsion, not to kill any particular person. I am not even sure that he meant to kill somebody. I think this man's compulsion is to commit what is known as a sadistic act. He has committed sadistic acts before, the inflicting of pain on people. He may have gone a little further than he meant to here. I think his primary purpose, this is my opinion, was to commit pain, to commit a sadistic act on a woman." A report previously submitted to the Court substantiated by Dr. Cushard, indicated that the defendant might not have really been aware of what he was doing at the time, as he might have been "completely amnestic."

In response to a question by defense counsel, the witness stated that neither he nor any one of four other doctors at Clifton Perkins Hospital was willing to state that the defendant was responsible under Maryland law at the time of the alleged criminal act. Thereafter the following colloquy took place:

"[The Court] * * * the Court will ask the doctor a question in lieu of the one that the State's attorney has asked. In your opinion, based on all of your examinations of this defendant, Doctor, did he at the time of the commission of the alleged act, to wit on or about July 1, 1962, did he have the capacity and reason sufficient to enable him to distinguish between right and wrong and to understand the nature and ...


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