Evans v. O'Connor

Decision Date21 September 1899
Citation174 Mass. 287,54 N.E. 557
PartiesEVANS v. O'CONNOR. SAME v. O'CONNOR et al.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court


Exceptions from superior court, Essex county; Charles S. Lilley, Judge.

Actions in tort by one Evans against one O'Connor and against one O'Connor and William E. Merrill for the seduction of plaintiff's wife and the alienation of her affections by defendants. Actions discontinued as to O'Connor. There was a verdict against defendant William E. Merrill, and he brings exceptions. Exceptions sustained.

W.S. Peters and H.J. Cale, for plaintiff.

B.B. Jones, for defendants.


In these cases the plaintiff relied upon acts of adultery committed by the wife of the plaintiff with the defendant in the first case in the years 1893, 1894, and 1895. The evidence as to the act in 1893 was as to one occasion only, and was very slight, though the evidence was abundant as to the acts of 1894 and 1895. The first exception relates to the ruling of the presiding judge in regard to the right of the wife of the plaintiff to testify. She was called by the defendants, and desired to testify as to her relations with O'Connor in the year 1893, but not as to those in the years 1894 and 1895. She was instructed by the judge that, if she testified as to matters in 1893, she could be cross-examined fully as to 1894 and 1895. The witness then declined to testify. We are of opinion that the defendants had a right to the testimony of the witness as to a distinct and separate transaction relied upon by the plaintiff, and that the witness ought to have been allowed to testify as to the year 1893, without waiving her privilege as to the years 1894 and 1895. Low v. Mitchell, 18 Me. 372. In this case the law is thus stated by Mr. Justice Shepley: “The rule that a witness is not obliged to criminate himself is well established. It is contended, however, that if the witness waives that privilege when testifying to one fact in the cause, he cannot claim it while testifying to any other fact material to the issue. If he consents to testify to one matter tending to criminate himself, he must testify fully in all respects relative to that matter, so far as material to the issue. If he waives the privilege, he does so fully in relation to that act. But he does not thereby waive his privilege of refusing to reveal other unlawful acts, wholly unconnected with the act of which he has spoken, even though they may be material to the issue. His consent to speak of one criminal act cannot deprive him of that protection which the law affords him so far as respects other criminal acts, not connected with it.” See, also, Lombard v. Mayberry, 24 Neb. 674, 690, 40 N.W. 271. If, however, within the legitimate limits of cross-examination as to the fact testified to, an inquiry is started as to other facts, the witness must be considered as having waived his privilege as to the latter so far as the inquiry as to them is within...

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