State v. Triplett, 237 N.C. 604 (1953)

April 29, 1953 · Supreme Court of North Carolina
237 N.C. 604


(Filed 29 April, 1953.)

1. Automobiles § 28e—

The State’s evidence tending to show that defendant, in an intoxicated condition, was driving 65 or 70 miles an hour in a zone limited to his knowledge to a speed not in excess of 35 miles per hour, and struck a five-year-old child with the left front of his car after the child had crossed his lane of travel and was about one and one-half feet to defendant’s left of the center line of the highway, with other corroborating circumstances shown in evidence, is held, sufficient to be submitted to the jury upon the question of defendant’s culpable negligence in a prosecution for involuntary manslaughter. G.S. 15-144.

2. Criminal Law § 78e (1)—

An exception to the failure of the court to charge “the law on every substantial feature of the case embraced within the issues and arising on the evidence . . .” is held ineffectual as a broadside exception.

Appeal by defendant from Clement, J., and a jury, at September Term, 1952, of 'Watauga.

Criminal prosecution on bill of indictment charging the defendant with the felonious and willful killing of one Janice Lee Goodnight (G.S. 15-144), tried below on the charge of involuntary manslaughter.

On Saturday afternoon, 31 May, 1952, the defendant was driving his Ford automobile on U. S. Highway No. 421, going east about a mile from the Town of Boone, in a built-up settlement known as Perkinsville, when Janice Lee Goodnight, a little five-year-old girl, ran out in front of the defendant’s car and was struck and killed.

The defendant’s version of the occurrence is that he was driving along in a careful manner, not exceeding 35 or 40 miles per hour, approaching a house on the right which sits back only about eight feet from the edge of the highway, when suddenly a little dog ran out on the highway followed by the little girl, who was trying to catch the dog. As the defendant put it: “There was a hedge at that house and she came right out in the road. . . . The dog ran across the highway then the little girl right beside it. . . . she ran after the dog and she was right in front of the car when I saw her and I couldn’t help striking her.”

*605However, tbe evidence on wbieb tbe State relies tends to make for a materially different state of facts. It discloses tbat tbe defendant, in an intoxicated condition, was driving 65 or 70 miles per bour in a 35-mile per bour speed zone; tbat there was no shrubbery near tbe edge of tbe highway opposite where tbe child was bit; tbat tbe little girl, after coming on tbe highway from tbe defendant’s right, bad entirely crossed bis traffic lane and bad reached a point about a foot and a half beyond tbe left of tbe center line when she was bit by tbe left front of defendant’s car and knocked tbe rest of the distance across tbe pavement out on tbe left shoulder of tbe road. Tbe State’s evidence further discloses tbat at tbe point of collision tbe highway is straight for some considerable distance in both directions and slightly upgrade in tbe direction tbe defendant was traveling; tbat tbe weather was clear and tbe road dry. No cars were parked along tbe highway near tbe scene, and none was approaching tbe defendant at tbe time of tbe occurrence. No other pedestrians were on or near tbe highway at tbe time. Tbe defendant’s car, leaving a line of skid marks behind, came to a stop over on tbe right shoulder about 100 feet beyond tbe point of impact.

Frank Bolick, who was driving a car just behind tbe defendant, said tbe defendant overtook and passed him about 75 or 80 yards from tbe scene of tbe collision. This witness further testified : “I saw him on up at tbe scene of tbe accident. ... I beard tbe car wheels begin to squeal, . . . and something flew out . . ., and when we got on up there, tbe little girl was lying there . . . about two feet off tbe bard surface ... on tbe shoulder ... on tbe lefthand side going east. ... I was driving right behind tbe defendant’s car. . . . Tbe skid marks didn’t show until after be bit tbe child and knocked it out of tbe road. ... I couldn’t tell whether the defendant’s car increased or decreased speed from tbe time it passed me until tbe time of tbe accident. It just passed me awful fast. It is my opinion tbat tbe defendant was making not less than 65 or 70 miles per bour at tbe time tbe little girl was bit. Tbe defendant was about one and one-half feet on tbe lefthand side of tbe white line in tbe highway ... at tbe time the child was struck. . . . (Cross-examination) ... I was following along (about 250 feet) behind him when it occurred. There was no car or anything else between us to obstruct our view. ... I never saw tbe child until after it was bit by tbe car. Tbe first thing I saw of it, tbe little girl bounced off tbe left fender just like something flew out of tbe car. She came from tbe east side of tbe ear over to tbe left shoulder. ... I don’t think tbe defendant’s car ever slowed its speed until after tbe child was bit.”

Tbe collision occurred near tbe front of tbe home of Mrs. Ervin Parsons. She testified: “There is no shrubbery . . . between tbe bouse and tbe highway. . . . There is a pine tree down from my bouse on tbe same *606side. It is a small one about 5 or 8 feet bigb and then there is a large pine some thirty feet tall. These trees obstruct the view of my house as you approach it from the west.”

Hoy Greene, who was standing a short distance (150 to 200 yards) from the scene of the collision, “heard the tires squeal” and ran up to where the little girl was lying. He testified that the defendant appeared to be “under the influence of an intoxicating beverage. ... he talked kinda thick.” This witness also testified that while there was “a good deal of shrubbery up in front of Parson’s house . . . the accident occurred this side of Parson’s.”

Patrolman Roger Parker said there were 95 feet of skid marks extending from the rear wheels of defendant’s car back toward where the child was hit. This witness further testified: “The skid marks were solid, then broken for a distance, then solid again . . . (indicating that the brakes had been released and then applied again) .' . . The left front headlight of the car was knocked out. There was a small dent in the left front fender. ... he (the defendant) was unsteady in his walk, and his eyes were very milky and bloodshot, and there was a film about his eyes, and he had a strong odor of alcohol about his person. ... I have an opinion . . . that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time. . . . After we found out that the child was dead, I went to the jail. That was not much more than an hour later, with the Chief of Police here in Boone. . . . he (the defendant) was lying on a bunk asleep. I called to him twice and he didn’t wake up. I opened the door and went in and shook him, and he got up and sat on the side of the bed. . . . He seemed in a daze and had a strong odor of alcohol. . . .”

Patrolman George Baker, who took the defendant to jail, testified: “He appeared to me that he was drinking heavily.”

The defendant on cross-examination said he “never saw the child until she was in the road.” He also said he knew he “was in a thirty-five mile speed zone.”

The jury returned a verdict of guilty as charged, and from judgment pronounced, imposing a prison sentence of two years, the defendant appealed, assigning errors.

Attorney-General McMullan, Assistant Attorney-General Bruton, and Gerald F. White, Member of Staff, for the State.

Bowie & Bowie and Wade E. Brown for defendant, appellant.


Was the evidence sufficient to carry the ease to the jury over the defendant’s motion for judgment as of nonsuit? We think so.

Evidence tending to show these crucial factors make for the State’s prima facie case: The paved portion of the highway was 20 feet wide; *607the little girl came on the highway from the defendant’s right; she had crossed the defendant’s traffic lane and was about one and one-half feet beyond the center line when hit; the defendant, in an intoxicated condition, was driving 65 or 70 miles per hour in a known 35-mile per hour speed zone; no cars were parked along the highway near the scene; there was no shrubbery near the edge of the highway opposite where the child was hit; and the defendant said he “didn’t see the child until she was in the road.”

This, with other corroborating circumstances shown in evidence, was sufficient to sustain the inference of culpable negligence of the defendant as the proximate cause of the little girl’s death. The court below properly overruled the demurrer to the evidence. S. v. Swinney, 231 N.C. 506, 57 S.E. 2d 647; S. v. Dills, 204 N.C. 33, 167 S.E. 459; S. v. Cope, 204 N.C. 28, 167 S.E. 456; S. v. Stansell, 203 N.C. 69, 164 S.E. 580; S. v. Palmer, 197 N.C. 135, 147 S.E. 817; S. v. Trott, 190 N.C. 674, 130 S.E. 627; S. v. Rountree, 181 N.C. 535, 106 S.E. 669; S. v. McIver, 175 N.C. 761, 94 S.E. 682. See also Butter v. Allen, 233 N.C. 484, 64 S.E. 2d 561.

The single remaining exception brought forward by the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the court’s compliance with G.S. 1-180 in charging the jury. Here the defendant excepts for that the court “did not charge the jury as to the law on every substantial feature of the case embraced within the issues and arising on the evidence, . . .” This exception is untenable as a broadside exception. S. v. Brooks, 228 N.C. 68, 44 S.E. 2d 482; S. v. Lambe, 232 N.C. 570, 61 S.E. 2d 608. See also Price v. Monroe, 234 N.C. 666, 68 S.E. 2d 283.

In the trial below we find

No error.