Epperson v State

Annotate this Case

Epperson v State
1947 OK CR 63
181 P.2d 292
84 Okl.Cr. 255
Decided: 05/28/1947
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals

(Syllabus.)

1. Appeal and Error-Judgment Affirmed in Absence of Prejudicial Error. Rule 9 of the Criminal Court of Appeals provides: "When no counsel appears and no briefs are filed, the court will examine the pleadings, the instructions of the court,

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and the exceptions taken thereto, and the judgment and sentence, and if no prejudicial error appears will affirm the judgment."

2. Same-Sufficiency of Conflicting Evidence to Sustain Judgment. Where the issue of an alibi is presented and the evidence is conflicting the judgment and sentence of the trial court will not be vacated when the evidence of the state is sufficient to sustain the same.

3. Habitual Criminals-Statute Provides for Greater Punishment Upon Conviction for Second Offense. Where one is charged with the commission of a felony, and as a second offender, as provided by Tit. 21 O. S. 1941 § 51, and proof is made in compliance with said charge, the statute provides for a greater punishment upon conviction.

4. Same-Punishment for Attempt to Commit Offense. Under Tit. 21 O. S. 1941 § 51, subdivision 1, the punishment to be assessed upon conviction is ten years In the penitentiary. Under subdivision 3 of said statute, where the subsequent conviction is for an attempt to commit an offense, which, if committed, would be imprisonment in the penitentiary, the punishment is by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term not exceeding five years.

5. Trial-New Trial Granted Because of Fundamental Error in Instruction as to Punishment. An instruction by the court submitting the punishment as provided by subdivision 1 of the statute (Tit. 21 O. S. 1941 § 51) of a minimum of ten years in the penitentiary, when the applicable statute was subdivision 3, which provides for a punishment of not exceeding 5 years in the penitentiary, was erroneous, and constituted fundamental error for which a new trial will be granted.

Appeal from District Court, Kay County; Roy R. Carver, Judge.

John Epperson was convicted of the crime of burglariously attempting to break and enter a building, after prior conviction of a felony, and sentenced to serve a term of ten years in the State Penitentiary, and he appeals. Reversed and remanded.

J. H. Hill, of Newkirk, for plaintiff in error.

Mac Q. Williamson, Atty. Gen., and C. Wayne Stevens, Co. Atty., of Ponca City, for defendant in error.

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BAREFOOT, P. J. Defendant, John Epperson, was charged in the district court of Kay county, Okla., with the crime of burglariously attempting to break and enter a certain two-story brick building, after having been convicted of the crime of grand larceny and serving a term of one year in the State Penitentiary at McAlester. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to serve a term of ten years in the State Penitentiary, and has appealed.

This case was set for oral argument, and submitted on the record January 30, 1947. The time for filing brief had long prior thereto expired. No appearance was made, on behalf of the defendant. At the time of submission, an order was entered giving defendant an additional 20o days in which to file brief. No brief has been filed.

It is provided by Rule 9 of this court:

"When no counsel appears, and no briefs are filed, the court will examine the pleadings, the instructions of the court, and the exceptions taken thereto, and the judgment and sentence, and if no prejudicial error appears, will affirm the judgment."

In compliance with this rule we have carefully examined the record. It reveals that the defendant was charged in the body of the information with the crime of attempted burglary, after former conviction of a felony.

The punishment to be inflicted where one is charged after a prior conviction, and is convicted, is set out in 21 O. S.1941 § 51, as follows:

"Every person who, having been convicted of any offense punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary, commits any crime after such conviction, is punishable. therefor as follows:

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"1. If the offense of which such person is subsequently convicted is such that upon a first conviction an offender would be punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for any term exceeding five years, such person is punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term of not less than ten years.

"2. If such subsequent offense is such that, upon a first conviction the offender would be punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for five years, or any less term, then the person convicted of such subsequent offense is punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term not exceeding ten years.

"3. If such subsequent conviction is for petit larceny, or for any attempt to commit an offense which, if committed, would be punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary, then the person convicted of such subsequent offense is punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term not exceeding five years."

Instruction No. 7 given by the court in this case is as follows:

"You are instructed that under the laws of this state a person who, having been convicted of an offense punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary, commits any crime after such conviction, is punishable therefor as follows:

"If the offense for which said person is subsequently convicted is such that upon a first conviction an offender would be punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for any term exceeding five (5) years, such person is punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term not less than ten years.

"Excepted to by Deft. Exception allowed."

And instruction No. 8 is as follows:

"You are further instructed that under the laws of this state, a crime of attempted burglary, as hereinafter

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defined, to you in these instructions, is an offense such that upon a first offense an offender would be punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term of not exceeding ten years.

"Excepted to by Deft. Exception allowed."

It will thus be noted that the court instructed the jury under subdivision 1 of the statute above quoted, which provides for a minimum punishment of ten years in the penitentiary. The court should have submitted this case under subdivision 3, which provides for punishment not to exceed five years. Subsection 3 provides:

"If such subsequent conviction is for petit larceny, or for any attempt to commit an offense * * *."

The charge against this defendant was for an attempt to commit the crime of burglary and the court so instructed the jury in Instruction No. 6, where it is stated:

"You are instructed that in this case the defendant is not charged with stealing property, but is charged with attempted burglary, after a prior conviction in this court of grand larceny; * * *."

It will thus be seen that subsection 3 was the applicable statute in this case, and it provides a punishment of not to exceed five years in the penitentiary. The court instructed the jury, in instruction No. 7, that the minimum punishment to be assessed was ten years in the penitentiary, and this was the punishment given by the jury.

We have considered the question of a modification of this judgment to five years in the penitentiary, but when we examine the statute above quoted, we note that it was within the power of the jury to assess any punishment "not to exceed five years in the penitentiary." Under these circumstances, we do not consider it would be fair to the defendant to modify the judgment to five years in the penitentiary, which is the maximum punishment

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under the statute. We have come to the conclusion that justice demands a reversal of this case, and that a jury be permitted to assess the punishment in the event of a conviction of the defendant.