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State v. Cæsar.
with an oath, that he could not stand it—he got a rail and struck them, and left one of them for dead. The prisoner was a man of ordinary size; and it was in proof, that he was employed in getting timber. It was also in proof, that he was obedient to white persons, so far as the witness knew or had heard.
The Attorney General insisted, that, upon this evidence, it was a case of murder.
The prisoner's counsel contended, that whilst an ordinary assault and battery by a white man on a slave would not be sufficient to extenuate the crime from murder to manslaughter; yet this was a case, in which we were obliged to resort to the primary rule, which pronounces on the character of provocations, and that the application of this principle was left to the intelligence and conscience of the jury: That the circumstances of this case, the time, the manner, the drunken situation of the white men, their conduct on that occasion, being utter strangers to the negroes and the negroes to them, were naturally calculated to provoke a well disposed slave into a violent passion, and, therefore, the crime was extenua. ted to manslaughter. • The prisoner's counsel further contended, that, if the jury believed the deceased and Brickhouse having whipped the prisoner, then violently assaulted Dick, without provocation or justifiation, and was in the act of severely beating him (Dick begging) so as naturally to provoke the anger of the prisoner, being a well disposed negro, and, under the excitement of passion thus produced, the prisoner gave the deceased a blow, which produced death, it was only manslaughter: That, if the jury believed the deceased and Brickhouse, without authority or justi. fication, having whipped the prisoner, then were in the act of severely beating Dick, the comrade of the prisoner, (Dick then begging,) and the prisoner, with the intent of releasing Dick from further violence, struck the deceased,
Stato v. Cæsar.
it was only man-slaughter: That, if the jury believed the deceased and Brickhouse, without authority or justification, whipped the prisoner, as stated by the witness, and then the deceased and Brickhouse, without authority, provocation, or justification, were violently beating Dick, the comrade of the prisoner, (Dick then begging) and the prisoner, under the excitement of passion thus produced and with an intent only to relieve his comrade, Dick, from further violence, struck the deceased, it was only manslaughter: That if the jury believed the prisoner struck with the intent only of preventing a felony upon Dick by Brickhouse and the deceased, it was only man. slaughter: That, if the jury believed the prisoner struck, while smarting under the influence of passion, caused by the infliction of blows given him by Brickhouse or Mizell, under the circumstances it was only manslaughter. The prisoner's counsel further contended, that from the evidence in this case, the weapon used was not a deadly one; and that the jury were to decide that question, and argued to the jury, that at least it was doubtful, whether the weapon was deadly or not.
The Court charged the jury, that, if the evidence, submitted to them, satisfied their minds beyond a reasonable doubt, that the prisoner at the bar slew the deceased with a fence rail or a part of a fence rail, under the circum. stances detailed by the witnesses, it was a case of murder.
If the witnesses had given a correct description of the rail or piece of rail, with which the prisoner inflicted the blow on the deceased, it was an instrument in the hands of a stout man calculated to produce death or great bodily harm; and was, therefore, in law, a deadly weapon. The Court further charged the jury, that, if the evidence of the witnesses Dick and Charles were true, as to what took place preceding the blow inflicted by the prisoner on the deceased, it would not amount to legal provocation, so as to extenuate the killing from murder to man.
State v. Caesar.
slaughter-the prisoner being a slave and the deceased a free white man. The blows inflicted by Brickhouse on the prisoner, as detailed by the witness Dick, and the blow's subsequently inflicted on Dick by Brickhouse, werr, taking the evidence to be true, nothing more than ordinary assaults and batteries ; and an ordinary assault and battery, inflicted by a free white man on a slave, would not amount to such legal provocation as would extenuate the killing of a free white man by the slave from murder to manslaughter, however worthless and degraded the white man might be.
The jury, under the charge of the Court, found the prisoner guilty, in manner and form, as charged in the bill of indictment. After sentence of death, the prisoner appealed to the Supreme Court.
Allorney General, for the State.
PEARSON, J. The prisoner, a slave, is convicted of murder in killing a while man. The case presents the ques. tion, whether the rules of law, by which manslaughter is distinguished from murder, as between white men, are applicable, when the party killing is a slave. If not, then to what extent a difference is to be made ?
The general question is now presented directly, for the first time. In Will's" case, the person killed was the overseer, who stood in the relation of master. In “ Jarroll's” case, the general question was discussed, but the decision did not turn upon it.
These being the only two cases in this Court, where it was necessary to discuss the question, while it renders our duty the more difficult, cannot fail to strike every mind, as a convincing proof of the due subordination and good conduct of our slave population, and to suggest, that,
Slate v. Cæsar.
if any departure from the known and ordinary rules of the law of homicide is to be made, it is called for to a very limited extent.
It is clear, that the killing of the deceased is neither a greater nor less offence, than would have been the killing of the witness, Brickhouse. He was the most forward and officious actor, but the deceased had identified him. self with him. They set out upon a common purpose. When a false word was told, in saying, "they were pat. rollers,” the deceased acquiesced by silence-when the slight blows were given with the board, the deceased gave countenance to it—when Brickhouse seized Dick and began to beat him, the deceased caught hold of his hands and held him, while his coadjutor beat him.
To present the general question by itself, and prevent confusion, it will be well to ascertain, what would have been the offence, if all the parties had been white men ? Two friends are quietly talking together at night-two strangers come up-one strikes each of the friends several blows with a board ; the blows are slight, but calculated to irritate-a third friend comes up-one of the strangers seizes him, and orders one of the former to go and get a whip that he might whip him. Upon his refusing thus to become an aider in their unlawful act, the two stran. gers set upon him-one holds his hands, while the other beats him with his fist upon the head and breast, he not venturing to make resistanee and begging for mercyhis friend yielding to a burst of generous indignation, exclaims, "I can't stand this," takes up a fence rail, knocks one down, and then knocks the other down, and without a repetition of the blow, the three friends make their es. cape. The blow given to one proves fatal. Is not the bare statement sufficient? Does it require argument, or a reference to adjudged cases to show, that this is not a case of murder? or, “of a black," diabolical heart, regard
State v. Cæsar.
less of social duty and fatally bent on mischief? It is clearly a case of manslaughter in its most mitigated form. The provocation was grie vous. The blow was inflicted with the first thing that could be laid hold of: it was not repeated and must be attributed, not to malice, but to a generous impulse, excited by witnessing injury done to a friend. The adjudged cases fully sustain this conclusion. In 12 Coke. Rep. 87, “two are playing at bowls; they quarrel and engage in a fight: a friend of one, standing by, seizes a bowl and strikes a blow, whereof the man dies. This is manslaughter, because of the passion, which is excited, when one sees his friend assaulted.” This is the leading case; it is referred to and approved by all the subsequent authorities. King v. Huygot, 1 Kel. 59. 1 Russ. on crimes, 500. i East. P. C. 328, 340.
As this would have been a case of manslaughter, if the parties had been white men ; are the same rules ap. plicable, the party killing being a slave? The law. making power has not expressed its will, but has left the law to be declared by the Courts, as it may be deduced from the primary principles of the doctrine of homicide.” The task is no easy one, yet it is the duty of the Court to ascertain and declare what the law is.
I think the same rules are not applicable ; for, from the nature of the institution of slavery, a provocation, which, given by one white man to another, would excite the passions, and "dethrone reason for a time," would not and ought not to produce this effect, when given by a white man to a slave. Hence, although, if a white man, receiving a slight blow, kills with a deadly weapon, it is but manslaughter; if a slave, for such a blow, should kill a white man, it would be murder ; for, accustomed as he is to constant humiliation, it would not be calculated to excite to such a degree as to "dethrone reason," and must be ascribed to a “wicked heart, regardless of social duty."