Prosecution for murder in the first degree. Defendant was found guilty of murder in the second degree and defendant moved for a new trial. The Superior Court in and for New Castle County, Richards, P. J., held that the writing signed by defendant amounted to a confession, and the reference in charge to confessions was not prejudicial.
[48 Del. 170] Indictment for Murder in the First Degree.
Defendant was found guilty of murder in the second degree and the pending motion for a new trial was made.
The reasons assigned for a new trial are:
1. That the Deputy Attorney General not only instructed the jury on the law, but did so erroneously and in such a manner as to confuse the jury, which constituted prejudicial error against the defendant.
2. That a paper writing in question and answer from, being State's Exhibit No. 11, and purportedly acknowledged by the defendant under oath and with her mark, which constituted nothing more than evidence of a series of responsive remarks as to a number of facts and circumstances surrounding the shooting of the deceased, exculpatory in nature, was treated by the Court in the charge to the jury in such a manner as to imply that it constituted a confession which was erroneous and prejudicial to the defendant.
David B. Coxe, Jr., Wilmington, for defendant.
Vincent A. Theisen, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., for the State.
Argued before RICHARDS, P. J., and TERRY and CAREY, JJ.
RICHARDS, President Judge.
It has long been the practice in this State, for attorneys engaged in the trial of a case, in the course of their remarks to [48 Del. 171] the jury, to not only discuss the facts but to refer to the law applicable thereto. This is particularly true in the trial of criminal cases, during which the Attorney General while addressing the jury often defines the crime for which the defendant is charged and discusses the different elements of it.
While Mr. Theisen was arguing the case before the jury he made certain statements concerning the crime for which the defendant was indicted and for which she was being tried. He started by saying: ‘ What is murder in the first degree? Under our law, and as the Court will charge you’, he then proceeded to state, in his own language, what the State was required to prove in murder of the first degree and murder of the second degree. He next called attention to the distinction between murder of the first and murder of the second degree. This was followed by a definition of malice with an explanation of express malice and the manner in which it can be shown.
Again, in his closing remarks to the jury, the Deputy Attorney General commented upon what constituted self-defense, including the amount of force which a person is justified in using, the duty to retreat and the duty to rely upon the help of other people available, who are able to assist and ...