Com. v. Buxton

Decision Date23 February 1910
Citation91 N.E. 128,205 Mass. 49
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

M. J. Dwyer, Asst. Dist. Atty., for the Commonwealth.

P. R Dunbar, for defendant.



The defendant contends that the apparatus offered was inadmissible, first, because of the 'insufficiency of [the] ex parte experiments intended to show the reliability of the machine,' and second, because of the failure of the government 'to show the trustworthiness of said stop-watch mechanism, an integral part of the apparatus.' In support of the first objection he insists that the evidence of the experiments described in the fifth paragraph of the 'agreed statement of facts' was inadmissible and the experiments themselves insufficient because the conditions under which the experiments were performed differed from those under which the experiment in the case in question was performed, the difference being that in the former the apparatus was used to photograph a stationary object, while in the latter the object was moving; and also that in the former the apparatus was used only to ascertain distance, while in the latter it was used to ascertain something more, namely, 'speed as shown by both distance and time.'

As a rule the question whether evidence of experiments shall be admitted depends largely upon the discretion of the trial judge; and his action in the exercise of this discretion will not be reversed unless plainly wrong. Field v Gowdy, 199 Mass. 568, 85 N.E. 884, 19 L. R. A. (N. S.) 236, and cases cited. In this case the result of the experiments did not depend upon the fluctuations of human agencies, nor on conditions whose relations to the result were uncertain, but upon the immutable working of natural laws; and upon the evidence the presiding judge may well have found that such experiments were likely to be more reliable as to the speed of the automobile than the conjectural statement of an eye witness or the interested statement of a chauffeur. We cannot say as matter of law that the evidence would not justify the judge in coming to the conclusion that the experiments would be useful in determining the speed of the car. Indeed it would seem desirable to have some machine whose action being dependent upon the uniform working of the laws of nature would record the speed of a moving object.

Nor is the fact that the experimenter was not an expert fatal to...

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