Bessette v. State

Citation101 Ind. 85
Decision Date03 April 1885
Docket Number12,027
PartiesBessette v. The State
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

From the Benton Circuit Court.

Judgment reversed.

D Smith, R. P. Davidson and J. C. Davidson, for appellant.

F. T Hord, Attorney General, for the State.


Mitchell, J.

The appellant was convicted in the court below of having made an assault upon, and of having had carnal knowledge of, Lenora Bessette, a female child under the age of twelve years.

The conviction rests wholly upon the testimony of the prosecuting witness, who was the daughter of the appellant's brother.

It appeared that the brother and his wife had separated for some cause, undisclosed in the record, and that his wife was living, presumably in wedlock, with one LaBarge, and that her daughter, the prosecutrix, was also a member of LaBarge's family, he assuming the relation of step-father to her.

The evidence tended to show that the alleged offence was perpetrated about nineteen months before any information of the fact was given by the prosecutrix to any one. After the lapse of that period, the evidence tended to show that the prosecutrix and her step-father, LaBarge, went to the office of the prosecuting attorney, when, after consultation, an affidavit was prepared charging the appellant with the offence, and concurrently with the commencement of the criminal proceeding, a civil suit was instituted by her in the Benton Circuit Court for damages, LaBarge being named as her next friend.

After the examination before the justice, the grand jury of the county returned an indictment against the appellant for the same offence which was charged in the affidavit, and upon the indictment so found this trial was had.

The evidence tended to show that upon the examination of the criminal charge had before the justice of the peace, the prosecutrix testified that the offence against her person was perpetrated by the appellant on the 10th day of May, 1882, in a certain field in which he was plowing, and that nothing was said or claimed by her at that examination as to any other similar occurrence, at any other time or place.

In her direct examination in this case, she abandoned the alleged occurrence in the field, saying nothing whatever about it, and testified that the abuse of her person occurred on a Sunday in May, 1882, in the appellant's barn, she having gone thither with him and two of his children, one of whom, a girl, was near her own age, to assist in watering the horses.

Having thus apparently changed her base, as to the place where the alleged offence was perpetrated, the appellant's counsel sought to develop the theory that the change was induced by the fact that a full view of the field in which she first testified the act occurred was commanded by the appellant's and also by a neighbor's house, and also by the fact that it could be made to appear that the appellant's hired man had plowed the field in the May referred to, and that the appellant had not plowed in that field at all at the time first laid.

The appellant, by his counsel, also undertook in the cross-examination of the prosecutrix to develop the theory that the relations between her and her step-father were of an improper character; that they were depraved in their conversation and conduct with each other, and that both the criminal and civil prosecutions were the result of a conspiracy between the two to extort money from the appellant.

As tending to support that theory, the prosecuting witness was asked on cross-examination whether she had not, on an occasion when absent from home with her step-father, occupied the same bunk with him; and whether or not she had not told persons, whose names were given, that her step-father had told her about matters relating to the begetting of children and commerce between the sexes, and other matters, which indicated, if true, an utterly debased and depraved condition of mind in both. She was also asked questions tending to show, or implying, that she had been led to expect a pecuniary advantage on account of the several prosecutions commenced against the appellant, and implying that she had been induced to commence the prosecutions by her step-father, in the hope or expectation of some such benefit.

These questions, and all others of like character, were, upon objection by the State, held to be improper, and these rulings of the court are complained of as erroneous.

The extent to which a cross-examination may be carried, in the direction indicated by the questions, is ordinarily a matter resting in the sound discretion of the nisi prius court.

The rule that specific acts of immorality or misconduct of a witness can not be proved for the purpose of discrediting him, is well settled and is not to be infringed upon, but that rule is not involved in the question under consideration. The question...

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88 cases
  • Perez v. Territory of Arizona
    • United States
    • Arizona Supreme Court
    • March 27, 1908
    ... ... vituperation of said attorney, when defendants had not ... tendered such an issue by offering evidence of their good ... character. State v. Kennedy, 177 Mo. 98, 75 S.W ... 979; State v. Lapage, 57 N.H. 245, 24 Am. Rep. 69; ... People v. Sharp, 107 N.Y. 427, 1 Am. St. Rep. 851, ... decisions of courts of last resort, both state and federal, ... as the following citations will abundantly show: Bessette ... v. State, 101 Ind. 85; State v. Bokien, 14 ... Wash. 403, 44 P. 889; Hall v. United States, 150 ... U.S. 76, 14 S.Ct. 22, 37 L.Ed. 1003; ... ...
  • State v. Apley
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • May 19, 1913
    ...124 Cal. 653, 57 Pac. 578, 1008;Moore v. State, 68 Ala. 360;Gifford v. People, 87 Ill. 211;Cunningham v. State, 65 Ind. 377;Bessette v. State, 101 Ind. 85;State v. Barrett, 40 Minn. 65, 41 N. W. 459;Holbrook v. Dow, 12 Gray (Mass.) 357. In the case at bar we can apply the most radical rule ......
  • State v. Apley
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • April 14, 1913
    ...124 Cal. 653, 57 P. 578, 1008; Moore v. State, 68 Ala. 360; Gifford v. People, 87 Ill. 210; Cunningham v. State, 65 Ind. 377; Bessette v. State, 101 Ind. 85; v. Barrett, 40 Minn. 65, 41 N.W. 459; Holbrook v. Dow, 78 Mass. 357, 12 Gray 357. In the case at bar, we can apply the most radical r......
  • State v. Peirce
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • November 17, 1916
    ...Iowa 158, 62 N.W. 675; Stone v. State, 22 Tex. Ct. of Appeals 185; Martin v. State (Miss.), 63 Miss. 505, 56 Am. Rep. 812, 824; Bessette v. State, 101 Ind. 85, State v. Proctor, 86 Iowa 698, at 701, 53 N.W. 424. While defendant could complain if that had been done which these cases condemn,......
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