Supreme Court of South Carolina
13 S.E. 319 (1891)

 McIver, J.

 The defendant was indicted for and convicted of the murder of his wife [and sentenced to death] . . . .

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. . . . [T]he defendant attempted to kill himself, and in doing so unfortunately killed his wife, who was attempting to prevent the suicidal act. . . . The judge used this language in his charge:  "In the eye of the law, self-destruction—suicide--is an offense; it is an unlawful act; and, if a man with a deadly weapon undertakes to take his own life, he is doing an unlawful act; and if in the commission, or attempted commission, of that act, he takes the life of an innocent party standing by, then, in the eye of the law, that is murder."  To this instruction there is no well-founded exception.  In 1 Russ. Crimes. (3d Amer. Ed.) 424, it is said: "Whenever an unlawful act, an act malum in se, is done in prosecution of a felonious intention, and death ensues, it will be murder."  Now, as suicide is an unlawful act, malum in se, and is a felony, (1 Bish. Crim. Law, §§ 511-615,) there can be no doubt that the proposition laid down by the judge is correct. We have carefully examined the case of Com. v. Mink, 123 Mass. 422, cited by counsel for appellant, on this point and we do not think it is applicable, for the reason that in the state of Massachusetts they have a statute providing that "any crime punishable by death or imprisonment in the state-prison is a felony, and no other crime shall be so considered."  Suicide therefore is not a felony in that state, as, from the very nature of the case, it cannot be punishable by death or imprisonment in the state-prison;" and yet, in that very case, Gray, C. J., in delivering the opinion of the court, intimates pretty plainly that one who, in an unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide, unintentionally kills another, who is endeavoring to prevent it, is guilty of murder.  But in this state we have no such statute, and, on the contrary, section 2678 of the General Statutes prescribing the form of the verdict of a coroner's inquest, in a case of suicide, by the use of the term "feloniously" expressly recognizes it as retaining its common-law character as a felony.

 The [remaining] ground of appeal is too general to require attention.  Nevertheless, in favorem vitae, we will not decline to consider such questions as we can gather from the argument were intended to be raised by that ground. The first is as to the doctrine of "moral insanity," as it is sometimes called, or uncontrollable impulse.  While it is not to be denied that there are cases in some of the states which recognize this doctrine as a defense against a charge of crime, yet it never has and we trust never will obtain a foothold in this state; for we agree with Judge Sherwood, when he said in the recent case of State v. Pagels, 92 Mo. 300, 4 S. W. Rep. 931:  "It will be a sad day for this state when uncontrollable impulse shall dictate a rule of action to our courts."  It is a matter that is not susceptible of proof, and to allow a person to escape the consequences of his criminal act by asserting that he acted under an impulse which he could not restrain, although he knew his act to be unlawful, would be dangerous, if not destructive, to the peace of society. . . .

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McGowan, J., concurs.