LOCATION: Kings County Superior Court: Hanford Courthouse
DOCKET NO.: 84-1974
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
CITATION: 478 US 570 (1986)
ARGUED: Mar 24, 1986
DECIDED: Jul 02, 1986
Paul J. Larkin, Jr. - as amicus curiae in support of Petitioner
Scott Daniel - on behalf of the Respondent
W. J. Michael Cody - on behalf of the Petitioner
Facts of the case
Media for Rose v. Clark
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 24, 1986 in Rose v. Clark
Warren E. Burger:
We'll hear arguments next in Rose against Clark.
Mr. Attorney General?
W. J. Michael Cody:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
On the night of December 30, 1978, Joy Faulk and Charles Browning were shot to death in a rural area of Rutherford County, Tennessee.
The Respondent Clark was indicted by the grand jury on two counts of first degree murder.
Following a jury trial, he was convicted of the first degree murder of Joy Faulk and given life imprisonment and the second degree murder of Charles Browning and given ten years imprisonment.
The malice instructions were not challenged at trial, but later challenged on appeal.
The state appellate court affirmed the jury verdict and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied permission to appeal.
The petition for the writ of habeas corpus, which alleged the malice instructions violated due process pursuant to Sandstrom versus Montana, was granted by the district court and this affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
This grant of the petition for a writ of certiorari is limited to the question of whether error in the trial court's jury instructions on malice was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
The facts in this case are extremely important.
Joy Faulk and the Respondent had been involved in a stormy relationship prior to Faulk terminating that relationship several months before the slayings.
Following their breakup, the Respondent threatened on six different occasions to kill Faulk if he ever caught her with another man.
Two weeks before the slayings, the Respondent borrowed the murder weapon, a 25 caliber automatic pistol, after untruthfully indicating that his own gun had been stolen.
Several days before the slayings, the Respondent spoke to Browning's wife for the purpose of determining the relationship and during the course of the conversation he twice stated that he wanted to find out about Browning and Faulk's relationship before he did what he had to do.
And, at the time he made those statements, he was in the possession of the murder weapon.
Now, prior to the commission of the crimes, the Respondent's truck was observed pursuing Browning's truck in which Faulk and her two daughters were passengers along the road.
Some ten miles from this observation, Browning pulled into a private driveway, either to let the Respondent pass or to seek safety.
At that time, the Respondent parked his truck immediately behind Browning's, thereby blocking any escape, and left the lights on, then immediately went to the Browning truck, put his pistol inside the cab and fired the weapon at least four times at point-blank range.
Browning, who was, of course, the driver of the truck, had a fully loaded 22 caliber pistol in his right pants pocket.
The pistol contained one spent cartridge which the evidence is clear was positioned so that it could not have just been fired.
He could not have removed the pistol from his pocket before he was shot.
Browning was shot once in the head from a distance of six to eight inches and Faulk was shot three times, twice in the head and once in the left shoulder, from a distance of less than 18 inches.
Both Browning's and Faulk's brains were obliterated by the head wounds in this case.
Physical evidence at the scene indicated that the Respondent fired his weapon almost immediately after causing Browning to stop his truck.
Browning's foot was still on the brake pedal.
The motor in the truck was on, the radio was playing, the headlights were on, the driver's window was down, and the passenger's window was up.
And, finally, after the Respondent fled the scene of the murder, Faulk's two daughters who miraculously not injured in the shooting, crawled over the bodies and were found wandering around the roadway seeking assistance.
Shortly thereafter the Respondent led the police on a high-speed chase at which time he discarded the murder weapon prior to his apprehension by the police.
That night and at the trial, Joy Faulk's daughter identified the Respondent as the individual responsible for killing her mother and Browning.