152 A.2d 50 (N.J. 1959), A--86, State v. Lucas

Docket NºA--86.
Citation152 A.2d 50, 30 N.J. 37
Opinion Judge[10] Burling
Party NameSTATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Elber Cooper LUCAS, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney[7] Mr. Martin L. Haines argued the cause for the defendant-appellant (Messrs. Dimon, Haines & Hunting, and Messrs. Abbotts & Abbotts, and Mr. John A. Hartpence, attorneys).
Case DateJune 01, 1959
CourtSupreme Court of New Jersey

Page 50

152 A.2d 50 (N.J. 1959)

30 N.J. 37

STATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Respondent,

v.

Elber Cooper LUCAS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. A--86.

Supreme Court of New Jersey.

June 1, 1959

Argued April 6, 1959. [30 N.J. 44]

Page 51

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 52

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 53

Martin L. Haines, Mount Holly, for defendant-appellant (Dimon, Haines & Hunting, Mount Holly, and Abbotts & Abbotts, Trenton, and John A. Hartpence, Jersey City, attorneys).

John J. Barry, First Asst. Pros. of Mercer County, Trenton, for plaintiff-respondent (Stanley E. Rutkowski, Mercer County Pros., Trenton). [30 N.J. 45]

The opinion of the court was delivered by

BURLING, J.

Defendant has taken an appeal to this court from a judgment of conviction entered pursuant to a jury verdict of murder in the first degree with recommendation of life imprisonment. 1947 Const., Art. VI, § V par. 1(c); R.R. 1:2--1(c).

Evidence was presented by the State that in the early hours of the rainy morning of

Page 54

March 14, 1956, some time about 4.00 a.m., a fire broke out in St. Mary's Cathedral and Rectory located on North Warren and Bank Streets in the City of Trenton. The fire, which lasted for 19 hours, destroyed the Cathedral and adjoining rectory which was also used as an office building. The death of Monsignor Richard T. Crean, Mary Brennan and Mary P. Donnellan, three occupants of the rectory, ensued as a result of the fire.

When the firemen arrived, shortly after 4:30 a.m., the only portion of the first floor of the rectory which was afire was a room utilized as an office located on the extreme left (southerly side) of the building adjacent to a funeral home. The upper floors of the rectory were ablaze, but the fire had not yet spread to the Cathedral building. Upon abatement of the flames, firemen entered and made an inspection of the building. The electrical wiring, heating equipment, incinerator, 'everything' was checked by the Fire Department, but nothing was found indicating the origin of the blaze and the cause of the fire was officially listed as 'unknown.' However, the point of origin and path were ascertained to be in the previously mentioned office. Deputy Fire Chief Dovgala testified for the State as to his basis for opinion that the fire started in the rear center portion of the rectory office and proceeded to a stairway in the rear of the office, reaching the upper floors via the stairway.

The Trenton Police Department also conducted an investigation into the origin of the fire. The debris on the floor of the rectory office was sifted. There was a huge pile of debris in the rear center portion of the office at about the believed point of origin of the fire. Eight fragments of [30 N.J. 46] a glass container, which could not be identified by those familiar with the contents of the room, were found at the bottom or floor level of the pile of debris.

As a result of their investigation the police were of the opinion that the cause of the fire was other than accidental.

The layout and contents of the office were described by Edith Egan, who occupied the room during the day and was a receptionist and telephone operator employed by the Diocese of Trenton. The contents of the room were as follows: There was a large steel desk and chair which she utilized located towards the front of the room; against the wall on the left (facing the building from Warren Street) I.e., the wall next to the funeral home, there were five chairs which were sample chairs for a new high school; in the wall on the right, closest to the Cathedral and adjacent to the entrance hall, there was a fireplace. On the mantel were numerous telephone directories, for each of the counties in New Jersey and some for New York and Pennsylvania. In the front wall, adjacent to Warren Street, there were windows with full curtains. After business hours the curtains would be pulled halfway.

Some nine months after the fire, on the morning of December 17, 1956, at approximately 2:15 a.m., the defendant Lucas was observed by a police officer walking on South Warren Street, near Front Street in Trenton. His demeanor aroused the suspicion of the officer, who stopped Lucas and had him empty the contents of his pockets. The search revealed that Lucas was carrying seven packs of matches, numerous religious pamphlets and a newspaper clipping of a picture of the late Monsignor Crean. Upon the failure of the defendant to satisfactorily explain why he was carrying these articles, he was taken to the Detective Bureau.

Commencing at 10:30 a.m. on the morning of December 17, Lucas was questioned by the police for approximately an hour and 15 minutes, during which time he admitted setting fire to another church, not here in question. After [30 N.J. 47] an interruption of an hour for lunch, he was again questioned for an hour and a half. During this interrogation Lucas admitted setting fire to three other churches in the Trenton area, but again not the Cathedral. The interrogation on December 17 terminated at about 4:00 p.m.

Page 55

On the morning of the following day Lucas agreed to visit certain of the churches he had admitted burning. Shortly after 11:40 a.m. Lucas, accompanied by police officers, proceeded to several churches in Trenton where Lucas re-enacted the manner in which he set the fires. The group then had lunch and returned to the Detective Bureau shortly before 2:00 p.m. Lucas then stated he would like to rest and after he rested he might talk about the Cathedral fire. He rested for about an hour. Detective Sergeant Bradley of the Trenton Police Department testified for the State that at approximately 3:00 p.m. Lucas was again interrogated and at that time admitted that he set the fire, adding, 'I am sorry, I didn't know anyone lived there.' Lucas admitted that he started the fire in a room which he referred to as a library; that he removed some books from a shelf in the room located to the right of the door as he entered, placed them on the floor and, after saturating them with gasoline, he set fire to them. When shown the fragments of glass found at the scene he stated that they looked like fragments from the glass container in which he had transported the gasoline and which he left at the scene, although he was not certain.

Lucas admitted starting the fire at 4 a.m. in the room next to Murphy's Funeral Home which he had described as a library because of the presence of books on the shelf. He entered the room by the door next to the funeral home which he said was not locked. Lucas described the contents of the room. In addition to the shelf with the books on it to the right of the door, he said it had a desk, a table, a chair and that there were some chairs piled up against the wall that separates the funeral home from the rectory building. [30 N.J. 48]

Lucas stated that he had purchased the gasoline at a gasoline station on North Warren Street immediately before the fire. (The station was open 24 hours a day.) He further testified that it was raining on the night of the fire.

Lieutenant Bloking, in an effort to test the veracity of Lucas' admissions, gave him false information concerning the fire:

He told him the police had information that the fire started 'around midnight, between 12 and 1 a.m.,' but Lucas said, 'No,' 'that was wrong; that he had started it between 4 a.m. and 4:30.' Lieutenant Bloking then told him that there was a snowstorm that night; but Lucas insisted that it had been raining and nasty. He was informed that the police believed that the fire started in the area of the altar of the Cathedral itself; Lucas said 'No,' that it had started in the library next to the funeral home. Bloking told him that the police had evidence that an explosive had been part of the igniting force used to set the fire; but again Lucas adhered to his original story, saying he had poured gasoline over some of the books and papers in the library and then set fire to them.

The interrogation terminated at 3:45 p.m., at which time Lucas was taken to the office of the Chief of Police James DiLouie. Chief DiLouie explained the extreme gravity of his admissions to Lucas and inquired if he understood the import of what he admitted. When Lucas replied affirmatively he was then asked to repeat his version of the crime for Chief DiLouie. The interrogations for the day terminated at 4:30 p.m.

On the ensuing day, December 19, 1956, Lucas was again questioned, this time by Prosecutor Mario Volpe, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a respite for luncheon. The questions and answers were transcribed stenographically by a certified shorthand reporter. During the period of questioning two separate statements were taken. The one relating to the Cathedral fire was taken in the afternoon and was admitted in evidence at the trial. Present at the time the [30 N.J. 49] statements were taken, in addition to the prosecutor and police officers, was Dr.

Page 56

Spradley, the State's psychiatrist. In it Lucas reiterated at length his oral admissions of the previous day. On the night in question, which Lucas described as 'rainy, nasty,' he stayed at the Hotel Penn in Trenton. He left the hotel at about 4 a.m. to go to a gasoline station on Warren Street above (north of) the church. He purchased the gasoline in a bottle which he had wrapped in a paper bag. (He had picked up the bottle on the street along the way.) Upon being shown the fragments of glass, Lucas stated that the bottle he had used was 'something like that.' After purchasing the gasoline he proceeded south on Warren Street toward the church. He entered the southerly door of the rectory building, next to Murphy's Funeral Home which was unlocked, and entered the 'library' (the rectory office). He had never been in the rectory building of the church...

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201 practice notes
  • 439 F.2d 620 (D.C. Cir. 1971), 22829, United States v. Eichberg
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
    • 21 Enero 1971
    ...Frigillana v. United States, 113 U.S.App.D.C. 328, 331, 307 F.2d 665, 668 (1962) (concurring opinion of Burger, J.); State v. Lucas, 30 N.J. 37, 69-71, 152 A.2d 50, 67-68drug addiction was common). [38] Thus, the rich man's theft is often labelled 'kleptomania, ' while the poor man's theft ......
  • 354 So.2d 30 (Ala.Crim.App. 1977), 4 Div. 526, Atwell v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 4 Octubre 1977
    ...the record before this court it does not clearly and convincingly appear that the appellant was incapable of standing trial, State v. Lucas,30 N.J. 37, 152 A.2d 50 (1959), or that the trial court acted in an arbitrary manner or abused its discretion in failing to initiate a second inquiry i......
  • 456 P.2d 797 (Idaho 1969), 10254, State v. White
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 30 Junio 1969
    ...213, 381 P.2d 93 (1963); State v. White, 60 Wash.2d 551, 374 P.2d 942 (1962); Chase v. State, 369 P.2d 997 (Alaska 1962); State v. Lucas, 30 N.J. 37, 152 A.2d 50 (1959). [12] State v. Harkness, 160 N.W.2d 324 (Iowa 1968). [13] State v. Shoffner, 31 Wis.2d 412, 143 N.W.2d 458 (1966). [14] St......
  • 153 A.2d 665 (N.J. 1959), A--127, Aponte v. State
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court of New Jersey
    • 10 Julio 1959
    ...and may be quickly disposed of. He seeks a review of the M'Naghten rule. This issue is concluded by our recent decision in State v. Lucas, 30 N.J. 37, 152 A.2d 50 (1959). He complains also of the courts charge with respect to intoxication. The issue here was insanity as a defense rather tha......
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200 cases
  • 439 F.2d 620 (D.C. Cir. 1971), 22829, United States v. Eichberg
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
    • 21 Enero 1971
    ...Frigillana v. United States, 113 U.S.App.D.C. 328, 331, 307 F.2d 665, 668 (1962) (concurring opinion of Burger, J.); State v. Lucas, 30 N.J. 37, 69-71, 152 A.2d 50, 67-68drug addiction was common). [38] Thus, the rich man's theft is often labelled 'kleptomania, ' while the poor man's theft ......
  • 354 So.2d 30 (Ala.Crim.App. 1977), 4 Div. 526, Atwell v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 4 Octubre 1977
    ...the record before this court it does not clearly and convincingly appear that the appellant was incapable of standing trial, State v. Lucas,30 N.J. 37, 152 A.2d 50 (1959), or that the trial court acted in an arbitrary manner or abused its discretion in failing to initiate a second inquiry i......
  • 456 P.2d 797 (Idaho 1969), 10254, State v. White
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 30 Junio 1969
    ...213, 381 P.2d 93 (1963); State v. White, 60 Wash.2d 551, 374 P.2d 942 (1962); Chase v. State, 369 P.2d 997 (Alaska 1962); State v. Lucas, 30 N.J. 37, 152 A.2d 50 (1959). [12] State v. Harkness, 160 N.W.2d 324 (Iowa 1968). [13] State v. Shoffner, 31 Wis.2d 412, 143 N.W.2d 458 (1966). [14] St......
  • 153 A.2d 665 (N.J. 1959), A--127, Aponte v. State
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court of New Jersey
    • 10 Julio 1959
    ...and may be quickly disposed of. He seeks a review of the M'Naghten rule. This issue is concluded by our recent decision in State v. Lucas, 30 N.J. 37, 152 A.2d 50 (1959). He complains also of the courts charge with respect to intoxication. The issue here was insanity as a defense rather tha......
  • Free signup to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Wrestling With MRE 304(G): The Struggle to Apply the Corroboration Rule
    • United States
    • Military Law Review Nbr. 178, December 2003
    • 1 Diciembre 2003
    ...the crime; and (2) other proof "tending to establish that when the defendant confessed he was telling the truth." State v. Lucas, 30 N.J. 37, 58 (1959). and the District of Columbia.50 The federal rule is also known as the "trustworthiness doctrine."51 The Trustworthines......