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Commonwealth v. Donahue

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
20 N.E. 171 (1889)


Facts

Donahue (defendant) purchased $21.55 worth of clothes from Mitchelman. However, when Mitchelman went to Donahue’s house to collect the money, an argument arose about the bill. Donahue collected the clothes and placed them in a chair and put $20 on a table and then told Mitchelman that he could either have the clothes or the $20. Mitchelman took the money and told Donahue that he owed him $1.55. Donahue demanded his money back and Mitchelman refused. Donahue attacked Mitchelman, threw him to the ground, and began choking him until Mitchelman gave him his wallet containing $29. Donahue was charged with robbery and assault. At trial, Donahue’s counsel denied that Donahue received the wallet and instead, claimed that Donahue had the right to use force to recover his own money from Mitchelman. The trial court instructed the jury that if Donahue choked or otherwise assaulted Mitchelman, then Donahue was guilty of assault, even if he used force to retrieve money from Mitchelman that Donahue believed was his own. Donahue was found guilty of assault and he appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Holmes, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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