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Fisher v. United States

328 U.S. 463, 66 S.Ct. 1318, 90 L.Ed. 1382 (1946)

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Fisher v. United States

United States Supreme Court

328 U.S. 463, 66 S.Ct. 1318, 90 L.Ed. 1382 (1946)

Facts

The United States government (plaintiff) charged Fisher (defendant), a janitor at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., with first-degree murder. Fisher was tried in federal district court, where he asserted a defense of partial responsibility and sought to reduce the charge to second-degree murder. The evidence proved that Fisher killed the cathedral librarian immediately after she complained about the library's cleanliness and used a racial epithet to insult him. Fisher had below-average intelligence and an aggressive psychopathic personality, and his actions at the time of the murder displayed the impulsive behavior of someone driven by primitive emotions. However, Fisher knew right from wrong, and had he been a person of normal intelligence, there could have been little doubt that he acted with the requisite deliberation and premeditation to sustain a conviction for first-degree murder. Fisher's attorney asked that the jury be instructed to consider Fisher's personality in determining his intent, deliberation, and premeditation. The judge refused, and after the jury found Fisher guilty as charged, the judge sentenced Fisher to death. The appellate court affirmed the judgment and sentence, and Fisher appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Reed, J.)

Dissent (Rutledge, J.)

Dissent (Murphy, J.)

Dissent (Frankfurter, J.)

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