28 Mo. 218 (Mo. 1859), State v. Lamb

Citation:28 Mo. 218
Opinion Judge:SCOTT, Judge.
Party Name:THE STATE, Respondent, v. LAMB, Appellant.
Attorney:U. & J. T. Wright, for appellant. Mauro, (circuit attorney,) for the State.
Court:Supreme Court of Missouri

Page 218

28 Mo. 218 (Mo. 1859)

THE STATE, Respondent,


LAMB, Appellant.

Supreme Court of Missouri.

March Term, 1859

1. To render a voluntary confession, made by an accused person before a committing magistrate and reducing to writing by the latter, admissible in evidence on the trial, it is not necessary that the record of the proceedings of the magistrate should show specifically that the prisoner was distinctly informed of the charge made against him and that he was at liberty to refuse to answer any question put to him, and that a reasonable time was allowed the prisoner to advise with his counsel and for that purpose to send for counsel; it is sufficient if it be shown upon the trial, by the testimony of the committing magistrate, that the requirements of the statute in this regard had been complied with.

2. A judicial confession is sufficient to found a capital conviction upon, although uncorroborated by any independent proof of the corpus delicti.

3. An extra-judicial confession, with extrinsic circumstantial evidence satisfying the minds of a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime charged has been committed, will warrant a conviction, although the dead body may not have been discovered and seen so that its existence and identity can be testified to by an eye-witness.

Appeal from St. Louis Criminal Court.

George H. Lamb was indicted for the murder of his wife Sarah S. Lamb by drowning her in the Mississippi river, in December, 1857. The evidence chiefly relied upon on the part of the State was the confession of Lamb voluntarily made by him before Rudolph Herkenrath, a justice of the peace, in the city of St. Louis, before whom he was taken for examination. The transcript of the docket of the justice, which, together with the confession of Lamb reduced to writing by the justice and signed by Lamb, and other papers, were delivered to the clerk of the criminal court, contained the following statement: " Defendant, with consent of the attorney for the State, waives an examination, and having been advised by the justice of his rights under the statute, makes a voluntary confession, filed herewith." The confession was as follows: " I was married to Sarah S. Stafford in the court-house at Quincy, Illinois, in November, 1856, by a justice of the peace. I was then a resident of Mendota, La Salle county, state of Illinois. I did not take my wife to Mendota with me. I left her with her father at Hamilton. I returned to Mendota. Last November, (1857,) I went to Hamilton to remove her from her father to go to Memphis or some place south to spend the winter. My wife and I came to St. Louis, I think about the 28th of November, 1857. We got here about daylight in the morning, and took breakfast and dinner at King's Hotel. From there we went up to the Astor House on Franklin avenue, kept by Hermann Norp. My wife was unwell during the time we were at the Astor House. I had two physicians attending on her--Dr. Christopher and Dr. Washington. Her sickness was caused by my giving her poison, strychnine. I bought it on Broadway, in a drug store in this city. I bought it for the purpose of giving it to her. I think I gave the strychnine to her twice. My intention was to dispose of her in some way. I had in my mind to destroy her. Norp and his lady came in and showed a good deal of distress about it, and I sent then for a physician for fear they might suspect something. The physicians prescribed for her. I gave to her what the physicians prescribed for her. I think I did exactly. I may not have given it to her. She recovered from the effects of the poison administered to her. She threw it up before I had given her the prescription of the physician. I think she did because she vomited. I think I gave her the poison about the 2d or 3d of December. She was confined to her bed some days. She set up only a little while at a time for about two weeks after. About the 17th of December we left the Astor House; the sun might have been about two or three hours high yet. I told her I was going down the river to Carondelet. We left there in a baggage wagon. Nobody went in the wagon with us but the driver. We took a band-box with a bonnet in it with us. She was apparently perfectly willing to go with me. We went down to the lower ferry landing. I did not know the driver of the baggage wagon. I think he was a colored man. We got out at the ferry landing. She sat in a room there. There was a young man there. I asked him whether she might sit there. He said she might. I had told some boys to bring a skiff there for me. I paid them at that time six or seven dollars for the skiff. We remained there about a full hour before the boys brought the skiff. My wife left in the skiff about two minutes after the boys had come. We started on down the river. We stopped about fifty rods below the steamboats, near where the streets are built out in the river, to get a stone or weight. I told her I wanted the stone to put in the bottom of the boat to keep it more even. One of the boys brought me two stones. There were two boys; each one brought one. I did not go out of the skiff at all. My design was to use these stones to sink the body. I noticed an island or sand bar. I saw an island without trees on it on the Missouri side. The island must be above Carondelet. I noticed but one island. We proceeded about half way down the island, on the east side of the island, near the channel, where the steamboats run. It was getting considerably dark. It may have been from twenty to fifty rods. * * * It is rather on the Missouri side of the channel. The steamboats ran between us and the Illinois shore. I then put my hand right back of her neck and pushed her head under the water. I held her head about two minutes under the water. I then raised her head partly out. She was dead. Her death was caused by my holding her head under the water.[a1] I then took the two shawls off and took the bonnet off, and took a string of twine and wrapped it around one of the stones and tied it, and then tied the twine around her neck. The string between her head and the stone was about four to six feet long. I then lifted the stone over the skiff and then let down the stone and the stone thus drew her right down. The stone may have weighed about ten or twelve pounds; was about eight inches long and four inches thick. I got the twine for the purpose of using it as I did. I got the stones to sink the body. After sinking the body I went right ashore. I got ashore on the sand-bar on the Missouri shore. I then shoved the skiff right out in the stream. It was a medium sized skiff, from thirteen to fourteen feet long. I can't tell whether the skiff was painted. I left the oars; there were three or four--two short...

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