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State v. Clancy

December 31, 1915

STATE OF NEVADA, RESPONDENT V. JOHN CLANCY, APPELLANT.


Appeal from Second Judicial District Court, Washoe County; Thomas F. Moran, Judge.

Fred B. Hart, for Appellant.

Geo. B. Thatcher, Attorney-General, for Respondent.

By the Court, Norcross, C. J.:

Appellant was convicted of robbery in the Second judicial district court in and for the county of Washoe, and he appeals.

[1] At the trial the defendant interposed the defense of insanity and assigns error in the giving of the following instructions:

“You are instructed that the law presumes every man sane until the contrary is shown by the evidence, and before the defendant can be excused on the ground of insanity the jury must believe from the evidence that the defendant at the time of the commission of the crime was without sufficient reason to know what he was doing, or that, as the result of mental unsoundness, he had not sufficient will power to govern his action by reason of some insane impulse which he could not resist or control. You are instructed that every man is presumed to be sane and to intend the natural and usual consequences of his own acts. As the law presumes a man to be sane until the contrary is shown, I charge you that the burden of proving insanity as a defense to a crime is upon the defendant to establish by a preponderance of the evidence, and unless insanity is established by a preponderance of the evidence the presumption of sanity should prevail.”

In addition to the foregoing instructions and in addition to an instruction upon the law of insanity given at the request of the defendant, the following instruction was given:

“If you believe from the evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, that at the time of doing the alleged act, the defendant was able to distinguish right from wrong, then you cannot acquit him on the ground of insanity.”

[38 Nev. 181, Page 183]

It is contended by counsel for appellant that the court erred in instructing the jury to the effect that the burden of proving insanity as a defense was upon the defendant, and that the presumption of innocence should prevail unless such defense was established by a preponderance of the evidence.”

We think no good purposes can be served at this time by again considering the divergent rules prevailing in various jurisdictions as to the degree of proof required of a defendant where the defense of insanity is interposed. The question was adverted to at some length in the recent case of State v. Nelson, 36 Nev. 403. In that case, after considering the rule stated in State v. Lewis, 20 Nev. 334, we said: “We see no good reason at this time for changing the rule.” The instructions complained of are supported by the decisions of this court in the Lewis and Nelson cases.

The instruction last quoted, supra, virtually directed the jury to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt upon the issue of sanity and was more favorable to the defendant than the rule announced in the Lewis case warrants.

[2] Upon cross-examination, the defendant was asked, without objection, where he was and what he had been doing during a considerable period of time that he had testified he was residing within the state. He was finally asked where he was during the months from October to February, to which objection was interposed and overruled. He answered: “I was locked up, sir, for drinking with an Indian.” A motion to strike the question ...


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