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Murder. Before Judge Calhoun. Talbot Superior Court. March 11, 1957.
HEAD, Justice.
Melvin Waller was indicted for the murder of Liza Daniel. He was convicted, without a recommendation of mercy. His motion for new trial as amended was denied, and the exception is to that judgment.
From the State's evidence it appeared: The defendant and the deceased had a room in the home of the mother of the deceased. On the date of the homicide the deceased came home in the car of another man. The defendant met her as she was coming up the steps, and knocked her down the steps. She got up and started back up the steps, and he shot her with a pistol, from which pistol wound she died. She had no weapon of any kind.
The defendant stated to the jury: When he came to the place where they stayed, the deceased was not there. When she came up in the car someone told him they were coming, and he put his pistol in his pocket and walked out on the front porch. The deceased started walking up the steps and he asked her where she had been. Instead of telling him, she started stabbing him, and he pushed her back and told her not to come on him with the knife. She started walking back up the steps, and he shot her.
1. Ground 1 of the amended motion for new trial asserts that the court erred in refusing the written request to charge as follows: "It can never be said that the death penalty is demanded by the evidence. After the offense of murder is established, it is solely within the province of the jury whether the accused shall be recommended to the mercy of the court. This discretion is not controlled by any rule of law."
In Glover v. State, 128 Ga. 1, 7 (57 S. E. 101) it was said: "It may be said . . . that as counsel for plaintiff in error practically abandoned the general grounds of the motion, we should look at the evidence to see whether the verdict was not demanded by the evidence. To this it may be replied that there may be a state of facts where the evidence, under the law, would demand a conviction of the crime of murder, but under our law, where the punishment to be inflicted for murder is left in the discretion of the jury, under no circumstances can this court say that the evidence demanded a general verdict of guilty which must be followed by the infliction of the death penalty." (Italics ours.) This language has been quoted and referred to in a number of cases. See Barfield v. State, 179 Ga. 293 (175 S. E. 582); Thompson v. State, 203 Ga. 416, 418 (47 S. E. 2d 54); Glenn v. State, 205 Ga. 32, 35 (52 S. E. 2d 319); Jones v. State, 207 Ga. 379, 380 (3) (62 S. E. 2d 187); Royals v. State, 208 Ga. 78, 82 (65 S. E. 2d 158); Parks v. State, 208 Ga. 508, 509 (4) (67 S. E. 2d 716).
The language quoted from Glover v. State, supra, and followed in the cases enumerated, states a principle governing this court in determining whether or not a new trial should be granted because of some error occurring during the trial in a case where the death penalty has been given, when the evidence demands a conviction of the crime of murder. It was not stated as a proper rule to be given by a trial judge in his charge to the jury. Although certain language may appear in a decision by this court, it does not necessarily follow that this language should be given in charge to the jury. Leonard v. State, 133 Ga. 435, 437 (66 S. E. 251).
In the present case the court charged the jury as follows: "If you believe that the State has established a case of murder against the defendant, it is solely the province of the jury as to whether or not they recommend mercy. That is discretionary and optional with you entirely, gentlemen, -- the law puts no inhibition there. If you feel that it's a case where mercy should be recommended that is entirely your province, and if not, that again is your province." This was a proper instruction on the jury's right to recommend mercy, and it was not error to refuse to give the requested charge set out in this ground.
2. In ground 2 it is insisted that the court erred in denying the motion of counsel for the defendant, at the beginning of the trial, "that he was entitled to 48 qualified jurors from which to strike."
From the recitals made in this ground it appears that some sixty jurors were present, and the solicitor-general propounded the voir dire questions to them. It does not appear from this ground that the defendant was denied any right to which he was entitled. Gossett v. State, 203 Ga. 692, 693 (4) (48 S. E. 2d 71).
3. Ground 3 is as follows: "Because the court failed to charge the jury on the law of self-defense, and failed to mention 'self-defense' in his charge, when the statement of the defendant (the movant) plainly showed the shot was fired after the movant had been attacked and cut severely by the deceased."
4. In ground 4 it is stated that, upon the completion of the testimony of the witness Carrie Ross, the court, looking at the solicitor-general, inquired: "Venue?" The solicitor replied that he intended to prove venue by another witness, but after this inquiry, he proceeded to ask questions of this witness to prove venue. It is asserted that the court was without authority to call the attention of the solicitor to the failure to prove venue, and the court's question tended to give the impression that he was aiding the prosecution and desired the conviction of the defendant.
Whether or not this question by the trial judge was proper, it does not appear that any motion for mistrial was made at the time. There is no merit in this ground. Tanner v. State, 163 Ga. 121, 130 (135 S. E. 917); Herndon v. State, 178 Ga. 832, 850 (174 S. E. 597); Simmons v. State, 181 Ga. 761, 763 (184 S. E. 291); Callahan v. State, 209 Ga. 211 (3) (71 S. E. 2d 86).
5. In ground 5 it is asserted that the court erred in restricting counsel for the defendant in the cross-examination of the witness Carrie Ross, mother of the deceased. The question asked by counsel was: "How many children did Moon [the deceased] have?" The solicitor-general objected to this line of questioning unless counsel sought to show that the defendant and the deceased were legally married. The court stated that, if either the defendant or the deceased had a living spouse, they could not contract a marriage, whether ceremonial or common law, and said, "I'll restrict you to that." It is stated in this ground that the restricted cross-examination prevented counsel from showing that the defendant and the deceased were actually living together as man and wife.
While the right of cross-examination of the witnesses called against a party is a substantial right, the trial judge may restrict the cross-examination to matters material to the issues. Clifton v. State, 187 Ga. 502, 508 (2 S. E. 2d 102). The question asked this witness had no relevancy to the issues in this case. The court did not prevent counsel from proving a common-law marriage between the defendant and the deceased, if he could do so under the restriction of the law, as correctly stated by the court. Under the testimony of the witnesses for the State, the homicide did not occur under circumstances which would have made it justifiable, even if the defendant and the deceased were living together as common-law man and wife. This ground shows no injury to the defendant in the restriction of the cross-examination of the witness Carrie Ross.
6. In ground 6 it is stated that the court charged the jury as follows: "A bare fear of any of those offenses to prevent which the homicide is alleged to have been committed, shall not be sufficient to justify the killing." The error assigned is that the court failed to clarify and explain this charge. There is no merit in this ground.
7. Grounds 7 and 10 apparently refer to the same occurrence. In ground 10 it is stated that counsel for the defendant propounded the following question to the witness Lina Jenkins: "And you know that Melvin [the defendant] was displeased because his wife was going out with somebody else?" The solicitor-general objected to this question as follows: "If it please the court, we object to any reference of his wife. He hasn't shown they were married, and the State denies they were married, incapable of being married, in fact. We ask that he phrase his question properly." Counsel for the defendant then asked the court to rebuke the solicitor for the intimation made in his objection. The court stated: "Proceed with your examination." It is asserted that the court erred in failing to reprimand the solicitor.
It is not shown that any motion for mistrial was made because of the statements made by the solicitor in his objection, and the court in effect overruled the objection of the solicitor when he instructed counsel for the defendant to proceed with his examination. There is no merit in this ground. Simmons v. State, 181 Ga. 761, supra.
8. In ground 8 it is contended that the court erred in failing to charge, without request, as follows: "Every person has a right to take human life when it becomes necessary to do so in order to save his own life, or in defense of his person against one manifestly intending or endeavoring, by violence or surprise to commit a felony on him."
The charge given amply covered the rules of law in relation to justifiable homicide, and the court instructed the jury that, if they found the homicide to be justified, they should acquit the defendant, There is no merit in this ground.
9. Ground 9 is as follows: "Because the court failed to charge the law of manslaughter." This ground is incomplete, since it fails to show what principles of law in regard to "manslaughter" it is contended should have been charged.
Judgment affirmed. All the Justices concur.
George Richard Jacob, for plaintiff in error.
The verdict was authorized by the evidence, and the trial court properly denied the motion for new trial as amended. ARGUED MAY 14, 1957 -- DECIDED JUNE 10, 1957.
Saturday May 23 02:08 EDT

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