Commonwealth v. Piper

Decision Date20 March 1876
Citation120 Mass. 185
PartiesCommonwealth v. Thomas W. Piper
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Suffolk Indictment for the murder of Mabel H. Young, at Boston in the county of Suffolk, on May 23, 1875. Trial and conviction before Colt and Lord, JJ., who allowed a bill of exceptions, the substance of which appears in the opinion.

Exceptions overruled.

E Avery & E. P. Brown, for the defendant.

C. R Train, Attorney General, & W. C. Loring, Assistant Attorney General, for the Commonwealth.

Morton, J. Colt & Ames, JJ., absent.


Morton, J.

1. The statutes conferring and defining the right of challenge in capital cases contain no provisions as to the order of time in which the right shall be exercised by the government or by the defendant. Gen. Sts. c. 172, § 4. Sts. 1862, c. 84; 1873, c. 317, § 1; 1875, c. 167. There is no general rule of court upon the subject, and all directions as to the time when and the mode in which either party shall challenge, except so far as regulated by the statutes, like other matters affecting the proper conduct and order of the trial, are within the discretion of the court. The defendant, therefore, had no right of exception to the ruling of the court permitting the government to challenge Charles E. Whiting, one of the persons called to serve as jurors, after the defendant had apparently declined to challenge him.

2. The government produced one Glover as a witness, who testified that, about the time the murder was committed, he saw the defendant jump out of the window of the tower of the church on Warren Avenue, and that on the next day, having heard of the murder, he went with officer Savage and pointed out to him the window. The government was permitted to show by officer Savage what window Glover pointed out to him, to which the defendant excepted.

If the government had proposed, as the defendant contends was the case here, to corroborate the testimony of Glover by showing that he had made the same statements as those testified to by him, at other times, it would have been incompetent. Commonwealth v. Jenkins, 10 Gray 485. Of this character was the evidence excluded in the case of Commonwealth v. James, 99 Mass. 438, upon which the defendant relies. But such was not the purpose of the evidence objected to. Its purpose and effect was to identify the window referred to by Glover, and to show with more certainty that it was the window of the tower in which the murder was committed. The principle is the same as in the common case where a witness testifies that he took certain property from the possession of a defendant charged with larceny and delivered it to an officer. The officer is permitted to testify what property was delivered to him, not for the purpose of corroborating the witness, but to trace and identify the property. So in this case, Glover described the window referred to by him as the one which he pointed out to officer Savage. We are of opinion that it was competent for the officer to testify what window was pointed out to him for the purpose of identifying it.

We have considered this question in the same manner as if the testimony of Glover had been introduced before that of Savage. In fact it was introduced after, but the legal effect is the same. By the subsequent introduction of the testimony of Glover, the testimony of Savage was made applicable and competent, and the order in which testimony shall be introduced is within the discretion of the presiding judge, whose ruling is not subject to exception.

3. The exceptions to the testimony of the witness Martin cannot be sustained. It is not necessary to consider whether the question first put to him was unobjectionable in form, because it was withdrawn or modified before the witness answered, and his reply was competent and admissible. He testified that the defendant "took no interest apparently in what was going on; that is, he took no interest in it to ask questions or answer questions." It is enough to say that his testimony merely described the acts and appearance of the defendant as observed by him, soon after the murder, and did not state his judgment or opinion.

4. The next exception is to the testimony of Mr. Pentecost as to his conversation with the defendant. The defendant contends that the statements made by him in this conversation should have been excluded, because they were induced by threats or promises of Ham, the officer who had him in custody.

The rule of law is well settled, and was recognized at the trial, that confessions of a defendant, induced by fear of personal injury or hope of personal benefit held out by any one in authority, are not admissible in evidence.

When a confession is offered in a criminal case, and the defendant objects that he was induced to make it by threats or promises, it necessarily devolves upon the court to determine the preliminary question whether such inducements are shown....

To continue reading

Request your trial
78 cases
  • Guinan v. Famous Players-Lasky Corp.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • June 6, 1929 must appear that the conditions or circumstances were in general the same in the illustrative case and the case in hand (Commonwealth v. Piper, 120 Mass. 185;Biancucci v. Nigro, 247 Mass. 40, 43, 141 N. E. 568), the determination whether the conditions were sufficiently similar to make t......
  • Hof v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1993
    ...under proper instructions be submitted to the jury."); People v. Barker, 60 Mich. 277, 27 N.W. 539, 547 (1886) (quoting Commonwealth v. Piper, 120 Mass. 185, 188 (1876) (same)); People v. Huntley, 15 N.Y.2d 72, 255 N.Y.S.2d 838, 843, 204 N.E.2d 179, 183 (1965); Berry, supra, 111 P. at 679; ......
  • Com. v. Bonomi
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • January 31, 1957
    ...Mass. 313, 319, 101 N.E. 377. It is a compound of fact and opinion. Commonwealth v. Sturtivant, 117 Mass. 122, 133-137. See Commonwealth v. Piper, 120 Mass. 185; Commonwealth v. Trefethen, 157 Mass. 180, 31 N.E. 961, 24 L.R.A. 235; Commonwealth v. Gangi, 243 Mass. 341, 345, 137 N.E. 643; Ha......
  • Com. v. Michel
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • April 22, 1975
    ...judge's discretion to permit the introduction of competent evidence out of the usual order for admission of evidence. Commonwealth v. Piper, 120 Mass. 185, 187 (1876); Commonwealth v. Meaney, 151 Mass. 55, 56--57, 23 N.E. 730 (1890); Commonwealth v. Corcoran, 252 Mass. 465, 488, 148 N.E. 12......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT