ALLEN V. UNITED STATES, 164 U. S. 492 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Allen v. United States, 164 U.S. 492 (1896)

Allen v. United States

No. 371

Submitted October 28, 1896

Decided December 7, 1896

164 U.S. 492


There is no error in an instruction that evidence recited by the court to the jury leaves them at liberty to infer not only willfulness, but malice aforethought, if the evidence is as so recited.

There is no error in an instruction on a trial for murder that the intent necessary to constitute malice aforethought need not have existed for any particular time before the act of killing, but that it may spring up at the instant, and may be inferred from the fact of killing.

The language objected to in the sixth assignment of error is nothing more than the statement, in another form, of the familiar proposition that every man is presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of his own act.

Mere provocative words, however aggravating, are not sufficient to reduce a crime from murder to manslaughter.

To establish a case of justifiable homicide, it must appear that the assault made upon the prisoner was such as would lead a reasonable person to believe that his life was in peril.

There was no error in the instruction that the prisoner was bound to retreat as far as he could before slaying his assailant. Beard v. United States,

Page 164 U. S. 493

158 U. S. 550, and Alberty v. United States, 162 U. S. 499, distinguished from this case.

Flight of the accused is competent evidence against him as having a tendency to establish guilt, and an instruction to that effect in substance is not error, although inaccurate in some other respects which could not have misled the jury.

The refusal to charge that where there is a probability of innocence, there is a reasonable doubt of guilt is not error when the court has already charged that the jury could not find the defendant guilty unless they were satisfied from the testimony that the crime was established beyond a reasonable doubt.

The seventeenth and eighteenth assignments were taken to instructions given to the jury after the main charge was delivered, and when the jury had returned to the court, apparently for further instructions. These instructions were quite lengthy and were, in substance, that in a large proportion of cases, absolute certainty could not be expected; that, although the verdict must be the verdict of each individual juror, and not a mere acquiescence in the conclusion of his fellows, yet they should examine the question submitted, with candor and with a proper regard and deference to the opinions of each other; that it was their duty to decide the case if they could conscientiously do so; that they should listen, with a disposition to be convinced, to each other's arguments; that if much the larger number were for conviction, a dissenting juror should consider whether his doubt was a reasonable one which made no impression upon the minds of so many men, equally honest, equally intelligent with himself. If, upon the other hand, the majority was for acquittal, the minority ought to ask themselves whether they might not reasonably doubt the correctness of a judgment which was not concurred in by the majority. Held that there was no error.

The facts constituting the offence for which Allen was indicted are set forth in Allen v. United States, 150 U. S. 551, and 157 U. S. 157 U.S. 675. The rulings passed upon in the present case are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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