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Opinion of the Court.

by the evidence that the party who was slain was at the time doing something that would satisfy a reasonable man, situated as was the defendant, that the deceased, William Allison, then and there was about to do that which would destroy the life of the defendant, and that he could not prevent it except by doing as he did do. The question as to whether that is the state of case or not is a question that is to be finally passed upon by the juries of the country, and by you in this case, and you must have something more tangible, more real, more certain, than that which is a simple declaration of the party who slays, made in your presence by him as a witness when he is confronted with a charge of murder. All men would say that. No man created would say otherwise when confronted by such circumstances, and the juries, as a matter of fact, would have nothing to do but to record the finding which was willed or established by the declaration of the party who did the killing.” In this there was error. While the trial judge may not have intended to be understood that the defendant could not prove his defence by his own testimony, and had it in his mind simply to warn the jury that they should not rely on the defendant's opinion that his conduct was justifiable, but on the facts, or what reasonably appeared to him to be such, we think these remarks had a much wider scope, and must have been so understood by the jury. The "state of case" put to the jury was whether William Allison was at the time doing something that would satisfy a reasonable man, situated as defendant was, that he was about to do what would destroy defendant's life, and which defendant could not prevent except by doing as he did; and the question as to the existence of that state of case was required by the instruction to be passed on by the jury on something more than defendant's declaration, which, it was stated, would certainly be made by any man created when confronted with a charge of murder.

Defendant had testified to the facts upon which he based his belief that he was in peril, and it was for the jury to say from the evidence whether the facts as he stated them actually or apparently existed, and whether the homicide could,


Opinion of the Court.

therefore, be excused either wholly or in part. And if the jury regarded the remarks of the court as applicable generally to defendant's testimony, then defendant was practically deprived of its benefit, and the statute enabling him to testify was rendered unavailing. In our opinion the liability of the jury to thus understand these observations was so great that their utterance constitutes reversible error.

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Nor was this error obviated by what, some time after — the intervening portion of the charge occupies six closely printed pages was said by the trial judge, as follows: "The defendant has gone upon the stand, and he has made his statement. See if it is in harmony with the statements of witnesses you find to be reliable. If they are not, they stand before you as contradicted. If they are, they stand before you as strengthened as you may attach credit to the corroborating facts. In passing upon his evidence you are necessarily to consider his interest in the result of this trial, in the result of this case. He is related to the case more intimately than anybody else, and you are to apply the principle of the law that is laid down everywhere in all civilized countries, commanding you to look at a man's statements in the light of the interest that he has in the case. There is no odor of sanctity thrown around the statements of the defendant as a witness, as is sometimes supposed, because he is charged with crime. You are to view his statements in the light of their consistency, their reasonableness, and their probability, the same as the statements of any other witness, and you are to look at them in the light of the interest he has in the result of the case." this could be, in any aspect, treated as a modification of the previous assertions of the court, it was too far separated from that connection to permit us to attribute that operation to it, and, moreover, it was in itself erroneous. As a witness, a defendant is no more to be visited with condemnation than he is to be clothed with sanctity, simply because he is under accusation, and there is no presumption of law in favor of or against his truthfulness.


Exception was taken, not with much precision, but, we are disposed to hold, sufficiently to save the point, to the following

Opinion of the Court.

instruction, given in discussing the question of malice aforethought:

"Now, of course, you are to distinguish (and I have to be particular upon this point; I have my reasons for it, and it is not necessary to name to you what they are) between a case where a man prepares simply to defend himself and keeps himself in the right in that defence, and a state of case where he prepares himself recklessly, wantonly, and without just cause to take the life of another. If he prepares himself in the latter way, and he is on the lookout for the man he has thus prepared himself to kill and he kills him upon sight, that is murder, and it would shock humanity or even the most technical and hair splitting court to decide anything else. That can be nothing else but murder. If he is in the right — if he is in the right at the time of the killing- and simply prepared himself to defend his own life, that is preparation not to take the life of another, but preparation to defend himself. That is the distinction, a distinction that is clear and comprehensive." And also to this in reference to the exercise of the right of self-defence:

"The first proposition is as follows: A man, who, in the lawful pursuit of his business' I will tell you after a while what is meant by that. I will tell you, in short, in this connection it means that the man is doing at the time just exactly what he had a right to do under the law. When so situated

'is attacked by another under circumstances which denote an intention to take away his life, or to do him some enormous bodily harm, may lawfully kill the assailant, provided he uses all the means in his power, otherwise, to save his own life or to prevent the intended harm—such as retreating as far as he can, or disabling his adversary without killing him, if it be in his power.' Now, that means by its very language that the party was in the right at the time. If he was hunting up his father for the purpose of getting an opportunity to slay him. without just cause and in the absence of legal provocation, he was not in the right, and the consequence would be that he would be deprived of the law of self-defence, as you will learn presently, when such a condition as that exists. Now, of

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Opinion of the Court.

course, in this connection—and I am this particular again for certain reasons you are to draw the distinction between a state of case where a man arms himself, where there is ill will, or grudge, or spite, or animosity, existing, and he hunts up his adversary and slays him, and the state of case where he simply arms himself for self-defence. He has a right to do the latter as long as he is in the right, but he has no right to do the former, and if he does the former and slays because of that condition he is guilty of murder."

We are of opinion that defendant's objections to these portions of the charge are well founded. The hypothesis upon which the defence rested on the trial was that John Allison had a gun with him on the morning of the tragedy, in order to hunt deer, and that his stopping at Farris' place, which was on his way to Rucker's, was accidental. His testimony to

this effect was corroborated, and was not contradicted.

Justice and the law demanded that so far as reference was made to the evidence, that which was favorable to the accused should not be excluded. His guilt or innocence turned on a narrow hinge, and great caution should have been used not to complicate and confuse the issue. But the charge above quoted ignored the evidence tending to show that defendant had not armed himself at all, but had a gun with him for purposes of sport, and that his halt at Farris' had no connection whatever with the deceased; and invited the jury to contemplate the spectacle of a son hunting up his father with the deliberately preconceived intention of murdering him, unrelieved by allusion to defensive matter, which threw a different light on the transaction.

If defendant were "in the right at the time of the killing," the inquiry as to how he came to be armed was immaterial, or, at least, embraced by that expression. If there were evidence, and as to this the record permits no doubt, tending to establish that defendant carried his gun that morning for no purpose of offence or defence, then this disquisition of the court was calculated to darken the light cast on the homicide by the attendant circumstances as defendant claimed them to be; and of this he had just cause to complain, even though

Opinion of the Court.

there were competent evidence indicating that he harbored designs against his father's life, as frequently intimated by the court — intimations which we fear seriously trenched on that untrammelled determination of the facts by a jury to which parties accused are entitled.

As will have been seen, the theory of the defence was that defendant was in terror of his life by reason of the threats of deceased to take it, and was, therefore, led to interpret the alleged menacing action of deceased as demonstrating an intention then and there to carry those threats into execution. The bearing of the previous threats then was very important, and in relation to them the trial judge admonished the jury as follows:

"Now, then, these mitigating facts which reduce the killing so as to make it manslaughter cannot be previous acts of violence exerted at some other time, and so far in the past as that there was time for the blood to cool, or the party to think or to deliberate it cannot be an act of that kind that can be taken into account to mitigate the crime. Nor can they exist in the shape of previous threats, made at some other time than the killing, or, if you please, if the proof had shown that they were made at the time of the killing, because threats of violence, mere threats of that character, cannot be used to justify nor to mitigate a killing, unless they are coupled with some other condition which I will give you in connection with the law given you showing the figure that threats cut in If threats were made previous to the time of the killing, and they were not coupled with the condition that they may be used to illustrate, as I will give it to you presently, and the party kills because of those threats, that is evidence of spite, that is evidence of grudge, that is evidence showing that he kills because of ill will and special animosity existing upon his part against the party who is slain."

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After much intervening discussion on other matters, the subject was returned to thus:

"You want to know, of course, what figure threats cut. Evidence has been offered here of threats made by the deceased. You want to know what office they perform in the

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