4 Del. 563 (Del.Oyer.Ter. 1845), State v. Bostick

Citation4 Del. 563
Opinion JudgeBooth, Chief Justice .
AttorneySmithers, for prisoner, Gilpin, attorney general, contra,
CourtCourt of Oyer and Terminer of Delaware

Page 563

4 Del. 563 (Del.Oyer.Ter. 1845)




Court of Oyer and Terminer of Delaware.

May Term, 1845

Age of criminal liability. Mischievous capacity.

Evidence of confessions-what influence will exclude them.

Kent, May term, 1845. The defendant, a white girl twelve years old, was indicted for arson.

The dwelling of George P. Fisher, Esq., of Dover, was fired on the 10th of March, 1845, and his two children burnt to death.

Mrs. Ann Eliza Fisher .-The prisoner was in my service up to, and after the 10th of March last. She was twelve years old last August. She is a very shrewd, artful girl; not intelligent, or very capable of learning; but smart to work, and shrewd in mischief. On the 10th of March, about 8 o'clock, the children were playing in the kitchen; and defendant, without any direction from me, ordered them to bed. She went up with them; and, when she came down, she passed through the room where I sat with others, sewing and reading. After a short time we were alarmed by a noise; I started up with the rest; and, finding the house on fire, we rushed out, and fell down stairs. I remember but little after this.

After the children were buried and I was about to leave the house, and Elizabeth had got her clothes to go home, I tried to get her to confess but failed. I thought she was on the eve of confessing to me and Mrs. Houston in the parlor chamber; but others came in, and she stopped. I went with her into another room; and, after denying it when first directly charged, she made to me a full and particular confession of the whole matter.

I said to her, Elizabeth, the suspicion is general against you and you had as well tell all about it, the impression will be no greater; I do not expect to do any thing with you; I am going to send you home to your mother.

Smithers, for prisoner, objected to the introduction of any confession after this, as being brought about by promises, or inducements of favor. He cited, Archb. 112; 2 Russ. Cr. 826, 835-9, 644-5; 1 Phil. Ev. 81; Swift Ev. 132, 1; 1 Greenl. Ev. § 222.

Gilpin, attorney general, contra, cited, Ros. Civ. Ev. 34.

A majority of the court ruled out the confession.

Booth, Chief Justice .

It appears that the prisoner is a servant girl, between the age of twelve and thirteen years; and a shrewd, sensible and artful child. If she has such...

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