Commonwealth v. Rivers

Decision Date01 November 1940
Citation29 N.E.2d 683,307 Mass. 225
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

September 18, 1940.

Present: FIELD, C.


Practice, Criminal Exceptions: sufficiency of bill, whether error shown. Error Whether shown.

The question of the admissibility, at the trial of an indictment charging the defendant with keeping a house of ill fame, of evidence of a conversation with a woman on the premises could not be determined by this court where the bill of exceptions did not purport to set out all evidence relevant to such question.

COMPLAINT, received and sworn to in the District Court of Eastern Franklin on May 1, 1937.

On appeal to the Superior Court, the case was tried before Butterworth, J., a judge of a District Court.

W. R. Scharton, for the defendant. J. W. Heselton, District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

RONAN, J. The defendant was convicted of keeping a house of ill fame in violation of G. L. (Ter. Ed.) c. 272,

Section 24. The defendant, a widower, fifty-four years of age, had occupied these premises as his home for several years. A woman twenty-nine years of age, who was employed as his housekeeper, also lived there. One Mrs. Roche was living there as a guest of the housekeeper. At about forty-five minutes after one o'clock on the morning of April 25 1927, two State police officers accompanied by two other persons called at the defendant's home. They were admitted by the housekeeper. One of the men asked her for intoxicating liquor. She referred him to the defendant, who had retired for the night and was in his bedroom which led off the kitchen. This man went into the defendant's room and asked the defendant for liquor. His request was refused. In the meantime Roche, dressed in a kimono, came downstairs. She went with one of the men into the front hall. He was allowed to testify, subject to an exception, that she solicited him to go upstairs for the purpose of having intercourse with her and that she told him what the price would be, a part of which she stated "was for the house." The admission of this evidence is the only question raised by the bill of exceptions.

It is settled that, in a prosecution for keeping a disorderly house or a house of ill fame, evidence is admissible to show the bad character for chastity of women who lived in or frequented the house and the character of their conversations there as tending to show the character of the house, but that conversations by them outside the house and not in the presence of the defendant are merely hearsay and therefore are not competent evidence. Commonwealth v. Harwood, 4 Gray, 41. Commonwealth v. Kimball, 7 Gray, 328. Commonwealth v. Gannett, 1 Allen, 7. Commonwealth v. Davenport, 2 Allen, 299. Commonwealth v. Sliney, 126 Mass. 49 . Commonwealth v. Clark, 145 Mass. 251. Commonwealth v. Bagdasarian, 257 Mass. 248 . Commonwealth v. Martin, 304 Mass. 320 .

This bill of exceptions does not purport to set out all the material facts relative to the admission of the evidence in question and the Commonwealth raises this point. Exceptions that are so framed that we cannot determine from them alone whether the evidence was rightly or wrongly admitted must be overruled. We cannot say, in the absence of anything to the contrary, that the testimony introduced at the trial was not such as to render this evidence admissible. Parmenter v. Coburn, 6 Gray, 509. Day v. Moore...

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  • Horowitz v. People's Sav. Bank
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • November 1, 1940
    ... ... inferences of which they are susceptible, the ultimate ... finding is justified as matter of law it must stand ... Burke v. Commonwealth, 283 Mass. 63 , 67. Morse ... v. Chase, 305 Mass. 504 , 508 ...        Upon the facts ... found by the judge there was no error in his ... ...

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