Crawford v. State

Decision Date16 April 1896
Citation21 So. 214,112 Ala. 1
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Appeal from circuit court, Cleburne county; George E. Brewer, Judge.

Ben Crawford was convicted of manslaughter, and appeals. Reversed.

The appellant, Ben Crawford, was jointly indicted with Henry Evans for murder in the second degree, for killing one A. M Palmer, was convicted of manslaughter in the first degree and sentenced to nine years' imprisonment in the penitentiary. On motion of the appellant, there was a severance, and Ben Crawford was tried separately. Before entering upon the trial, and after the jury had been selected (the defendant having pleaded not guilty at a former day of the court), the defendant's counsel asked for time to examine the minutes of the court, with a view to filing a plea in abatement; but the court required the defendant's counsel to proceed with the trial. The defendant offered to plead orally to the fact that the grand jury which preferred the indictment was not drawn by the persons required by law but the court refused to entertain this plea, and required the defendant to proceed with the trial; and to this action of the court the defendant duly excepted. The state introduced one Wright Williamson as a witness, who testified that he was at the house of Alice Palmer, the daughter-in-law of the deceased, on the night old man Palmer was killed that, after old man Palmer and his daughter-in-law and the witness had finished supper, he (the witness) and old man Palmer went into the back room of the house; that, while they were sitting on a bed, the defendant, Ben Crawford, Henry Evans, and Henry Boman came into the house through the back door, without knocking, and stood in front of the door to the back room, where the deceased and the witness were; that upon being asked by the deceased what they wanted, one of the three replied that it was none of his d_____ business; that Palmer then said, "Tell your business, or get out of the house;" that, upon one of them saying, "I will get out when I get ready," Evans and Crawford presented pistols at the deceased, who thereupon picked up a double-barrel shotgun, and immediately a pistol was fired by Crawford or Evans; that a scuffle ensued, in which the witness was pulled out of the house; that upon the deceased's coming to the little platform in the back of the house, and telling Evans and the defendant to turn the witness loose, Crawford fired a pistol at the deceased, who fell upon the floor; and that shortly thereafter he died. This witness further testified that, when the defendant and Evans and Boman came into the house, the defendant and Evans had their pistols in their hands. The witness further testified that he sometimes went to the house of Alice Palmer, where the killing occurred; and, upon his further testifying that Alice Palmer was a woman of bad character for chastity, the witness was asked, on cross-examination, several questions relative to illicit relations between him and Alice Palmer. To each of these questions the state objected; the court sustained the objections to each of the questions; and to each of such rulings the defendant separately excepted. The witness Wright Williamson further testified that he was arrested on the night of the killing at the house of Alice Palmer, and that, at the time the officers came to the house, he was under a bed, in one of the rooms of the house, and came from under said bed upon being ordered by the officers to do so. The defendant's counsel then asked the witness: "Did you not climb up into the loft of the house when the officers, about six hours after the killing, were about the house, and before they came into the house?" The solicitor objected to this question. The court sustained the objection, and the defendant duly excepted. This witness further testified that the night of the killing, about 11 o'clock or 12 o'clock, some persons came, and asked to be let into the house, but were refused, until they began to prize the door open, when they were admitted, about a half hour after they first asked to be let in. For the purpose of explaining the conduct of the witness in remaining at the house after the killing, he was asked by the solicitor, "What did Mrs. Palmer say to you after the killing?" The defendant objected to this question, on the ground that the defendant was not shown to have been present. The court overruled the objection, and the defendant duly excepted. The witness answered, "She asked me to stay all night;" and the court overruled the defendant's motion to exclude the answer; and to this ruling the defendant duly excepted. Mrs. Henry Boman, the wife of Henry Boman, who was with the defendant at the house of Alice Palmer at the time of the killing, testified, among other things, that on the night of the killing, about 8 o'clock, her husband and the defendant and Henry Evans came to her house, and that, while they were sitting in the house, Evans said, "I shot, and it's a curious thing if I missed," and Crawford said, "I shot, too;" that this was all that was said, and no name was mentioned. Alice Palmer and Thomas Palmer, her son, about 12 years of age, testified to facts tending to corroborate the testimony of the witness Wright Williamson. Upon the cross-examination of A. M. Brooks, a witness for the state, he testified that, some time before the homicide, he had heard old man Palmer say that he intended to kill the defendant and some other men referred to if they did not stay away from the house of Alice Palmer, but that this threat was not communicated to the defendant by the witness until after the killing, and when the defendant was in prison. Upon the examination of E. P. Hartsfield, a witness for the state, the defendant, on cross-examination, asked him several questions relating to where the witness Wright Williamson was found on the night of the homicide, when they went to the house of Alice Palmer to arrest him. The solicitor objected to each of these questions; the court sustained each of the objections; and to each of such rulings the defendant separately excepted. By permission of the court, Thomas Palmer was recalled on cross-examination, for the purpose of laying a predicate to contradict him; and there was first read to him portions of his testimony before the coroner, and he was asked if before the coroner's inquest he did not testify that when defendant and Evans came in the house, the night of the homicide, they said to his grandpa, the old man Palmer, to shoot, and they would see who could shoot first. Witness answered he did not know; if he did, he must have told a story. The witness then stood aside, and defendant's counsel proposed to recall witness, to ask the witness the following question: "Were you not examined on the trial of defendant, Crawford, and Henry Evans, before Judge Baber, and did you not swear on that trial that as you went around the house, as defendant and Evans and Williamson were coming out of the house, and while about the chimney, that you heard a pistol shot in the fireplace room?" The court refused to permit the defendant's counsel to ask this question, on the ground that they had had full opportunity for laying predicate, and had examined witness fully, and defendant excepted.

Upon J T. Ward (a witness for the defendant) testifying that the general character of Wright Williamson and Alice Palmer was bad, and that their character for truth and veracity was bad, he was asked by the defendant's counsel the following question: "From your knowledge of Wright Williamson's character, would you believe him on oath?" The solicitor objected to this question; the court sustained the objection; and the defendant duly excepted. The testimony for the defendant tended to show that the defendant went to the house of Alice Palmer, to see something about a mortgage which he held against her husband, who was at the time in an insane asylum, and upon which a partial payment had been made; that Henry Evans went there to get the deceased, who was a blacksmith and gunsmith, to fix his pistol, as the deceased had told him to bring it to him, and that Henry Boman went with them at their request; that, as they were on their way to the house of Alice Palmer, a man, who had had the defendant's pistol for the purpose of selling it, gave it to the defendant, and he carried it along in his hand; that, when they went in the house, Henry Evans spoke to old man Palmer, who at once arose with a stick in his hand, and raised it, as if to strike the defendant; that Boman caught the stick, and said, "Old man, don't do that;" that Palmer then turned the stick loose, stepped back to the other room, got his gun, presented it at them, and told them to get out of the house; that, about the same time, a pistol was fired from the back room, and immediately Wright Williamson came from the room where the pistol was fired; that, after the pistol shot, Williamson caught hold of Evans and the defendant, and they all walked out through the adjoining room to the back door; that, just as the defendant was going out at the door, old man Palmer came after them with his double-barrel shotgun, and presented it at the defendant, and snapped said gun at the defendant; and that thereupon the defendant fired upon old man Palmer. It was further shown by the testimony that, on the night of the killing, there were discovered in the back room, to the rear of the back room where old man Palmer was at the time the defendant came into the room, a bullet hole in the wall, and that afterwards the ball was taken therefrom, and upon the witness who extracted the ball from the wall testifying that he thought it was the same ball, and discovering certain identifying marks which he had placed thereon, the ball was...

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