3 Del. 551 (Del.Oyer.Ter. 1842), State v. Dillahunt

Citation3 Del. 551
Opinion Judge(Bayard, Chief Justice ,)
AttorneyGilpin, Attorney-general, for prosecution. Wm. H. Rogers, for the defence.
CourtCourt of Oyer and Terminer of Delaware

Page 551

3 Del. 551 (Del.Oyer.Ter. 1842)




Court of Oyer and Terminer of Delaware.


Fall Sessions, 1842

The presumption of law is in favor of freedom.

Drunkenness is no excuse for crime; but mania a potu is a disease which may amount to insanity.

Indictment for the murder of William Frisby Green, negro.

Charlotte Green, a colored woman, was called as a witness for the State, and objected to because she was not proved to be a free woman, though it was proved that she acted as such. The court held her competent on two grounds. At the common law there was always a strong presumption in favor of freedom. In the first settlement of this country, the fact of the existence of the negro race in a state of bondage to the whites, and a large majority of that color being slaves, was considered sufficiently strong to outweigh the common law presumption, and to introduce a legal presumption that a colored person is prima facie a slave. Yet that state of things has changed; and cessante causa, cessat et ipsa lex. There are in this State about 20,000 persons of color; of whom 17,000 are free, and 3,000 slaves. A large majority of all persons of color in the United States are free. In point of fact, therefore, there is no reason to presume slavery from color; in opposition to the strong common law presumption, that every man having the human form is a freeman. And such has been the decision of this court on several occasions. But additionally, it has always been the practice to take reputation as proof of freedom.

The defence in the case was insanity.

Doctor L. P. Bush, of Wilmington, testified that the prisoner was at the time laboring under confirmed mania a potu, brought on by abstaining from liquor, after free indulgence. This is a temporary insanity; it resembles monomania more than any other form of insanity. The peculiar characteristic is, that it invests the imagination with full power over the judgment; the patient believes what he fancies, as fully as if it was actually so; his fancies are facts; and it is impossible to convince him otherwise; and this impression sometimes lasts after restoration to reason-the patient still believing that to have been true which he only fancied during his insanity. The memory is not usually much impaired-can give a connected statement on other subjects; with regard to volition I know...

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