Austin v. United States

382 F.2d 129 (1967)


D and Nettie Scott were drinking at a bar. D was also seen using a sharp pocket knife to repair the broken thumbnail of another female patron sitting at his table. D left with Nettie and her acquaintance, Mabel Proctor, and got sandwiches. D drove Mabel home around 4:30 a.m. and then drove off with Nettie. The Government produced no witness as to what happened thereafter. At 5:00 a.m. that morning, two policemen, cruising in an unmarked car, saw D's truck stopped in a parking bay and noticed some clothing lying on the grass near the truck. D came up the bank from the river, got in his truck and drove away. They discovered bloody clothing and a pool of blood in the grassy area near the parking bay. The officers recovered Nettie's body from the river. It was mutilated and nude except for a piece of clothing around her neck. D was arrested. Nettie had suffered approximately 26 major stab wounds, culminating in a stab wound to the head, penetrating the brain, and lodging the broken blade in the skull. The body had suffered at least the same number of superficial lacerations. The expert concluded that the death had been caused by hemorrhage and shock from the multiple knife wounds. The body of Nettie had been dragged from the grassy area where the bloody clothes were found to the sea wall, and that on the slope leading down to the river had been found a man's torn and bloody shirt, similar to one owned by D. There was no testimony as to any fights, quarrels, animosity, or threats between D and Nettie. D moved for acquittal only of first-degree murder at the close of the prosecution's case and again when defense rested. The court denied the motion. The court charged the jury on premeditation and deliberation: premeditation is the formation of an intention to kill, and deliberation means a further thought upon the plan to kill. The judge charged the jury that 'although some time' is required for deliberation, deliberation may be sufficient 'though it be of an exceedingly brief duration,' and that the time 'may be in the nature of hours, minutes or seconds.' D requested that the time required for deliberation be stated as 'some appreciable period of time,' rather than 'some period of time' as originally proposed by the judge. The court declined. D was convicted of first-degree murder and appealed.