involved a question of fact for the jury and had to be submitted to it for its decision.
Obviously the opinions of psychiatrists constitute evidence to be considered and weighed by the jury, together with other evidence, but are not binding on it. Otherwise, a trial by experts would be substituted for a trial by jury. That the testimony of psychiatrists does not preclude the jury from reaching a contrary verdict on other evidence in the case, was ably and emphatically demonstrated by Judge Arnold in Holloway v. United States, 80 U.S.App.D.C. 3, 5, 148 F.2d 665, 667, where he made the following statement:
'A complete reconciliation between the medical tests of insanity and the moral tests of criminal responsibility is impossible. The purposes are different; the assumptions behind the two standards are different. For that reason the principal function of a psychiatrist who testifies on the mental state of an abnormal offender is to inform the jury of the character of his mental disease. The psychiatrist's moral judgment reached on the basis of his observations is relevant. But it cannot bind the jury except within broad limits.'
Judge Arnold also indicated that great weight must be attached to evidence indicating that a defendant talked rationally at the time of the commission of the offense or shortly thereafter. On this point, Judge Arnold made the following significant remarks:
'To command respect criminal law must not offend against the common belief that men who talk rationally are in most cases morally responsible for what they do.'
Here the three psychiatrists were agreed that in April and May, 1954, two and three months after the crime was committed, the defendant was insane. Only two of the three felt able to express the opinion that the defendant had been insane at the time of the commission of the offense. As there was no former history of insanity, it is entirely possible that he became insane subsequently to his arrest, as a result of brooding over what he had done. Apparently the jury thought so. On the other hand, the jury had a right to believe that a person who could drive an automobile all the way from New Jersey to Washington, after dark, without deviating from the route, have a two-hour rational, social conversation with his brother, plan to arrive at his uncle's home at the time he knew the uncle would return from work, explain at the trial that during a scuffle with the uncle the gun went off accidentally, and after the shooting take the regular route back to his home in New Jersey and continue on it until arrested several hours later, give perfectly rational answers to two police interrogations, carry on a rational conversation with police officers while being taken back from New Jersey to Washington, was of sound mind during the crucial time. In any event the evidence required the submission of the issue to the jury, and its decision should not be disturbed.
The experience of trial judges trying cases with juries from day to day, leads to the view that strong reliance should be placed on the common sense and the feeling for substantial justice possessed and applied by the average jury. Juries generally have a keen discernment and exercise a sound judgment.
This court, therefore, adheres to the view that the issue of mental competency was properly submitted to the jury and that the verdict is sustained by the evidence.
This leaves for discussion the procedural problem here involved. The consideration of this aspect of the case must start with the major premise that a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict may be granted only if a motion for a judgment of acquittal should have been allowed at the conclusion of the presentation of evidence at the trial. A motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict is but a renewal of the former motion, and its scope is no greater than that of a motion for judgment of acquittal.
The ultimate question, therefore, is whether the court has power to direct a verdict of not guilty on the ground of insanity. Under the statutes of the District of Columbia such a verdict would lead to a mandatory commitment of the defendant to a mental institution where he might be confined for an indefinite period without further legal proceedings of any kind. This situation leads to the query whether the defendant would not be deprived of his full right to a jury trial by the direction of a verdict that would necessarily result in his incarceration instead of in his freedom. An inherent feature of the common law trial by jury accorded by the Constitution of the United States to all defendants in criminal cases in Federal courts comprizes the power of the jury to find the defendant not guilty, even if the evidence of guilt is overwhelming or conclusive. A defendant may not be deprived of this right. No doubt this constitutional privilege, as all others, can be waived. This court, however, has grave doubt whether counsel may waive it by implication merely by making a motion. The waiver, if made at all, must be made knowingly and intelligently by the defendant himself, as is the case with a waiver of indictment, waiver of a jury trial, or waiver of the right of counsel. No attempt to adduce such a waiver was made in this case. The court is, therefore, of the opinion that it lacks power to direct the entry of judgment of acquittal on the ground of insanity in this case.
The court concludes that it lacks the authority to grant the motion, but that even if such right existed, the motion should be denied on the merits. Accordingly the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict is denied.