PEOPLE v. DONNELL

Reset A A Font size: Print

District Court of Appeal, First District, Division 1, California.

PEOPLE v. O'DONNELL.†

Cr. No. 1954.

Decided: July 12, 1937

William L. Southwell and Peter J. Mullins, both of San Francisco (P. J. Murphy, of San Francisco, of counsel), for appellant. U. S. Webb, Atty. Gen., and Seibert L. Sefton, Deputy Atty. Gen., for the People.

Appellant was originally charged with a violation of section 288 of the Penal Code (as amended by St.1933, p. 1028), relating to crimes against children. To this charge he pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. At the time set for trial appellant withdrew his plea of not guilty and went to trial on his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. On this trial the jury disagreed. Thereafter the district attorney amended the information and added a second count charging the offense of rape. To both counts of this amended information appellant pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Subsequently he withdrew his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. After trial the jury found appellant guilty on both counts. In its verdict of guilty on the rape charge it recommended that appellant be punished by imprisonment in the county jail. Motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were made and denied, whereupon appellant was sentenced to San Quentin on the charge of violating section 288 of the Penal Code and to the county jail for one year on the rape charge, the sentences to run concurrently. This is an appeal from the final judgment and the order denying a motion for a new trial. It is conceded there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the conviction on the rape charge, but it is claimed there is none to support the charge under count one relating to lewd or lascivious acts against children. The further claim is made that the trial court by its conduct stripped appellant of a fair and impartial trial and erred in admitting the declarations of the child in evidence and in its instructions to the jury.

The evidence reveals a heinous crime of the most loathsome and sordid character. Such of the facts as are necessary for a discussion of the case show that on the 5th day of September, 1936, appellant, a man sixty–two years of age, visited the home of Mr. Jannsch for dinner. There were present Jannsch, his wife, a Mrs. Pedersen and her infant daughter three years of age. Shortly after 9 o'clock the child was put to bed. Later Mrs. Pedersen complained of a headache and she, accompanied by Jannsch and his wife, went to a drug store to obtain some aspirin. When the party returned home about half an hour later they heard the Pedersen child crying frantically in the bathroom. Mrs. Pedersen pounded on the front door and called upon appellant to open it. Receiving no response, Mrs. Jannsch requested her husband to hurry and open the door. When opened, Mrs. Pedersen accompanied by Mrs. Jannsch proceeded to the bathroom where they found the baby. She was bleeding between her legs and from her crotch. Mrs. Pedersen then went to the living room, where appellant was sitting in a chair with his eyes closed, apparently asleep. She shook him and asked what he had done to the baby. He replied that she must have fallen and cut herself. Mrs. Pedersen then returned to the bathroom and the child, still crying, informed her in her simple language that appellant had put his finger in her vagina and rectum. Mrs. Pedersen took the child to the emergency hospital and notified the police. They went to the house and found appellant still in the chair with his eyes closed. When accused of having harmed the child he denied the charge. He was then taken to the bathroom by the officers and his clothes examined. The front of his trousers, at the fly, were stained with a whitish substance mixed with blood. He was returned to the living room, where one of the officers asked the little child in the presence of appellant who had injured her, and she pointed to appellant. He was then taken to his home and his clothes were taken charge of by the officers. Upon examination by a physician the child's vagina was found torn and bleeding, and inside the vaginal cavity were found male procreative germs. Appellant's trousers and the cushion of the chesterfield in the living room, where he had been, were examined, and blood and spermatozoa were found on both. Blood was also found on the slip which had been worn by the child. This in substance constitutes the evidence in the case.

It is difficult to understand why the jury, having found defendant guilty of rape, could have made the recommendation it did. It is admitted that the evidence is sufficient to sustain that charge, but it is claimed there is no evidence tending to show that appellant violated section 288 of the Penal Code. In this connection it is claimed that the lewd and lascivious acts were part of and became merged in the rape charge, for which reason appellant could not be punished under the provisions of section 288 of the Penal Code. The fact that appellant was convicted upon the charge of rape does not necessarily prevent him from being punished under section 288 for any of the acts committed prior thereto. If any one of the antecedent acts of lewd and lascivious conduct was committed without the intent to commit rape, but simply to gratify appellant's lustful passion, and then later, emboldened by his success and further inflamed with passion, he conceived the further nefarious intent to penetrate the body of the child, the antecedent acts prior to the rape are punishable under the section involved. This question is fully discussed in People v. Parker, 74 Cal.App. 540, 241 P. 401, and need not be pursued further here. In People v. Lind, 68 Cal.App. 575, 229 P. 990, it was held that one who had committed lewd and lascivious acts leading up to the consummation of the crime of sodomy might be punished for his preliminary acts under section 288 of the Penal Code. So, also, in People v. Bronson, 69 Cal.App. 83, 230 P. 213, it was held that acts committed upon the body of a child immediately preceding the accomplishment of the act of sexual intercourse would bring such conduct within the condemnation of the section. See, also, People v. Agullana, 4 Cal.App.(2d) 34, 40 P.(2d) 848; People v. Meyer, 94 Cal.App. 696, 271 P. 751; People v. Piburn, 138 Cal.App. 56, 31 P.(2d) 470. Here the statement of the child showed that appellant had put his finger into her vagina and rectum. It was for the jury to say from all the facts and circumstances, including the possible immediate return of the mother, what the intent of defendant was at the time these acts were committed. Nor did the court err, as claimed, in admitting the accusatory statements of the child in evidence. The statements were voluntary and spontaneous, made in the presence of appellant, and at a time so near the commission of the offense as to preclude the idea of deliberate design, hence they may be regarded as contemporaneous therewith and admissible as res gestæ. And the fact that the child, by reason of her age, was incompetent from becoming a witness does not alter or affect the rule. Kenney v. State (Tex.Cr.App.) 79 S.W. 817, 65 L.R.A. 316. See, also, State v. Andrews, 130 lowa, 609, 105 N.W. 215; State v. Gilreath (Mo.Sup.) 267 S.W. 880.

Numerous charges of misconduct on the part of the court during the presentation of the evidence are assigned as prejudicial error. To many of these remarks no assignment of error was claimed, nor was a request made that the jury be instructed to disregard them. Complaint is also made that the district attorney was guilty of prejudicial misconduct in the examination of appellant's brother. The witness was asked if he ever had any difficulty with appellant concerning his conduct toward his daughter. Appellant claims that the question was propounded in bad faith, and that it was prejudicial to him. Assuming the question to have been improper, the answer was favorable to appellant and could not have been to his prejudice. 8 Cal.Jur., p. 628. Moreover, no assignment of misconduct was made, and in the absence thereof the question cannot be raised for the first time on appeal. People v. Fodera, 33 Cal.App. 8, 164 P. 22. The record shows that the trial judge was impatient with counsel for the defense and also with the district attorney as to the manner in which the trial was being conducted and made many remarks that may well have been left unsaid. We do not deem a recital of these remarks to be necessary. We have considered them and no doubt some of them were improper and beyond the privilege of the court. A trial judge is rigorously prohibited from action or words having the effect of conveying to the jury his personal opinion as to the truth or falsity of any evidence. This rule should be strictly adhered to. We cannot say, however, considering the conclusiveness of the evidence, that any of them resulted in a miscarriage of justice. At the conclusion of the case the court instructed the jury to disregard any remarks that were made from which it might gain the impression that the court had an opinion concerning any fact, and it was instructed that the facts were for its exclusive consideration. And finally, complaint is made of certain instructions which it is claimed were prejudicial to the rights of appellant. We have carefully examined the instructions and see no error therein.

The judgment and order are affirmed.

TYLER, Presiding Justice.

We concur: KNIGHT, J.; CASHIN, J.

Copied to clipboard