Brown v. State

Decision Date21 March 1947
Docket Number31473.
PartiesBROWN v. STATE.
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals

Syllabus by the Court.

1. "A confession is a voluntary statement made by a person charged with the commission of a crime, wherein he acknowledges himself to be guilty of the offense charged. A statement which admits the commission of an act, but which also gives legal excuse or justification, is not a confession."

2. 'Where there is evidence showing that the defendant admitted the homicide of which he is accused, and he states in connection therewith no facts or circumstances of excuse or justification, or gives reasons which are insufficient to furnish any legal excuse or justification, the statement amounts to a confession of guilt, and authorizes a charge on that subject.'

3. Where the defendant admitted that the whisky belonged to him without saying anything more, this raises a legal presumption that he knowingly possessed, had, or controlled it. This presumption is rebuttable.

4. Without anything more known or stated, such admission of specific facts, together with the legal presumption deemed to exist, constitute all the essential elements of the offense of having, controlling, or possessing the prohibited liquor.

5. When the defendant admitted that 'the whiskey was his' or belonged to him without stating anything more this was the legal equivalent of an admission that he was in the possession of it which would be a confession that he possessed the whiskey as charged.

6. A confession being direct evidence, the judge did not err in failing to charge on circumstantial evidence in the absence of a request.

7. The jury were authorized to find that there was a confession of the crime charged and that the corpus delicti was proved the evidence authorized the verdict.

G A. Johns, of Winder, for plaintiff in error.

Hope D. Stark, Sol. Gen., of Lawrenceville, for defendant in error.

MacINTYRE Judge.

Assuming the testimony of witness Clark to be true, the defendant contends that he did nothing more than admit that the whiskey found by Clark and Alred was his; that the defendant did not say that the whiskey was in his possession or under his control; that the defendant may have been admitting ownership of the whiskey and still not be in possession or control thereof; that ownership of the whiskey is not essential to possession; that construing the statement in the light most unfavorable to the defendant, it amounts to no more than an incriminatory admission and as such is indirect or circumstantial evidence; that it was error for the trial judge, in charging the jury, to denominate the incriminatory admission a confession and instruct upon it as though it was an admission of guilt, instead of an admission of fact from which, together with other evidence, the jury might or might not infer guilt; that there is a very wide distinction between admitting the main fact and admitting some minor or subordinate fact or series of facts which could be true whether the main fact existed or not; and that the statement of the accused, if made, was nothing more than an incriminating admission, indirect evidence, and since no direct evidence appears in the record of the case, it was error for the trial judge, though not requested so to charge, to omit to charge upon the law of circumstantial evidence. With these contentions we can not agree.

The defendant denied making the statement which the State contended was a confession.

The judge instructed the jury: 'The State contends that a confession was made by the defendant in this case and on that subject you are instructed that a confession is a free and voluntary statement made by a defendant without being induced by another by the slightest hope of benefit or the remotest fear of injury wherein he acknowledges himself guilty of the crime charged. When testimony in the nature of an alleged confession is offered, gentlemen, it is for the jury to determine whether or not such alleged confession was, in point of fact, made or not; and if the jury should believe there was a confession, then, and in that event, the following principles of law would govern the jury in determining the weight of such testimony with reference to such alleged confession. All admissions should be scanned with care and confessions of guilt should be received with great caution. A confession, alone, uncorroborated by other evidence, will not justify a conviction.' Lancaster v. State, 54 Ga.App. 243, 245(2), 187 S.E. 617.

In Grubbs v. State, 53 Ga.App. 377, 379, 186 S.E. 140, 141, it is said: "A confession is a voluntary statement made by a person charged with the commission of a crime, wherein he acknowledges himself to be guilty of the offense charged. A statement which admits the commission of an act, but which also gives legal excuse or justification, is not a confession.' Owens v. State, 120 Ga. 296(2), [300,] 48 S.E. 21. [In that decision,] the court says: 'A charge upon confessions, where there is no evidence * * * to support such a charge, has been repeatedly held to be error by this court.' [and cited] Suddeth v. State, 112 Ga. 407, 37 S.E. 747, and Dumas v. State, 63 Ga. 600.'

One of the cases the defendant strongly relies upon is Pressley v. State, Ga. 39 S.E.2d 478, 481, wherein it is said 'Where there is evidence showing that the defendant admitted...

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