Commonwealth v. Dascalakis

Decision Date09 January 1923
Citation243 Mass. 519,137 N.E. 879
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court


Exceptions from Superior Criminal Court, Suffolk County; Patrick M. Keating, Judge.

Paul Dascalakis, otherwise called Paul Pappas, was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and he brings exceptions. Exceptions overruled.

1. Criminal law k516-Statement in which defendant denied guilt was not a ‘confession.’

A statement by defendant, in which he said that he did not know who killed deceased, though he admitted other facts from which inferences might have been drawn by the jury, was not a ‘confession,’ which is an acknowledgment of an offense.

[Ed. Note.-For other definitions, see Words and Phrases, First and Second Series, Confession.]

2. Criminal law k406(3)-Rule as to exclusion, when not voluntary, inapplicable to declaration not in nature of confession.

The rule which excludes a confession of guilt by a defendant, when induced by fear of personal injury or hope of personal benefit, is not applicable to a declaration not in the nature of a confession, though it may tend in connection with other circumstances to prove guilt.

3. Criminal law k531(1)-Confession to one in authority presumed voluntary.

A confession made to a person in authority is presumed to be voluntary, and one objecting to its admission must show that it was made because of threats or promises.

4. Criminal law k406(2)-Warning to defendant that statement would be used against him not ambiguous, misleading, or improper.

A warning to defendant by a police officer, before he made a statement, that he was under arrest, charged with murder, and was not compelled to make any statement, and that if he did so be must do it voluntarily, fully understanding his rights, and that any statement he made could be used either for or against him, was not, as claimed, ambiguous, misleading, and improper, but clearly and distinctly informed defendant of his rights.

Henry P. Fielding, Asst. Dist. Atty., of Dorchester, for the commonwealth.

John W. Schenck and Matthews, Williams & Schenck, all of Boston, for defendant.


The defendant was indicted for the murder of Alice Arseneault on December 26, 1919. At the trial of the defendant in June, 1922, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree.

Alice Arseneault was the proprietor of a lodging house at 517 Columbus avenue, Boston. In September, 1919, the defendant came to her house as a lodger, and from that date to the date of her disappearance ‘friendly intimacy was observed between them.’ Between these dates one Arthur Pelletier called upon Alice Arseneault. These visits of Pelletier occasioned the disapproval of the defendant, and according to the testimony of a witness for the commonwealth, the defendant stated on one occasion, when Pelletier and the woman were together in a room with the door closed, that some day he [the defendant] would get mad and kill both Pelletier and Alice Arseneault.’ On or about December 25, 1919, she disappeared.

There was evidence that shortly after her disappearance the defendant disposed of her personal property, and on January 7, 1920, sold the furniture of the lodging house for $875. The bill of sale purported to bear the signature of Alice Arseneault. On May 11, 1920, her body was found buried in an ash pile in the cellar of the lodging house. There were a number of stab wounds on the body, and her throat was cut from ear to ear. The defendant was apprehended in Montreal, Canada, some months following the murder, and later brought to police headquarters in Boston, where he made a statement in the presence of certain police officers, including Capt. Ainsley C. Armstrong. Before doing so he was warned of his rights by Capt. Armstrong, who said to him:

‘You are now under arrest, charged with the murder of Alice Arseneault. You are not compelled to make any statement, if you make a statement you do so voluntarily, fully understanding your rights, as any statement you make can be used either for or against you in court.’

The statement of the defendant, made to the police officers, was admitted subject to his exception. The sole question raised by the defendant's bill of exceptions relates to the admission of this recital. The defendant claims that the warning given him was ‘ambiguous, misleading and improper,’ and that for this reason the statement should not have been admitted against him at the trial.

[1] In this statement the defendant did not admit his guilt. It was not a confession. A confession is an acknowledgment of an offense. He said that he did not know who killed Alice Arseneault; that the last time he saw her was on Christmas night, when she was in the parlor with ‘two fellows'; that he first learned of her death from a newspaper account, which he saw in Akron, Ohio. He related where he had lived since Christmas, 1919, and admitted other facts, not acknowledging guilt, from...

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31 cases
  • Michaud v. State
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • December 13, 1965
    ...than an admission of subordinate facts. Commonwealth v. Gleason (1928), 262 Mass. 185, 159 N.E. 518, 520; Commonwealth v. Dascalakis (1923), 243 Mass. 519, 137 N.E. 879, 38 A.L.R. 113. And the trial court need not hold a preliminary hearing to test the voluntariness of a mere admission, eve......
  • Commonwealth v. Dascalakis
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • June 22, 1923
    ...To review certain proceedings after sentence, he appeals and brings exceptions. Appeals dismissed, and exceptions overruled. See, also, 137 N. E. 879.Henry P. Fielding, Asst. Dist. Atty., of Dorchester, for the commonwealth.John P. Feeney, of Boston, for defendant.RUGG, C. J. The defendant ......
  • Com. v. Mahnke
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • October 7, 1975
    ...had amounted to a confession. Commonwealth v. Chapman, 345 Mass. 251, 254, 186 N.E.2d 818 (1962). See Commonwealth v. Dascalakis, 243 Mass. 519, 521, 137 N.E. 879 (1923); Commonwealth v. Haywood, supra, 247 Mass. at 17--18, 141 N.E. 571; Commonwealth v. Gleason, 262 Mass. 185, 190, 159 N.E.......
  • Stewart v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • July 18, 1963 a confession in order to be admissible. For the view that the requirements are not the same, see Commonwealth v. Dascalakis, 243 Mass. 519, 137 N.E. 879, 38 A.L.R. 113; State v. Romo, 66 Ariz. 174, 185 P.2d 757; 3 Wigmore, Evidence (3rd Ed.), Sec. 821, p. 243, n. 4. The contrary view, th......
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