Harris v. State

Decision Date18 November 1929
Docket Number28019
Citation155 Miss. 398,124 So. 493
CourtMississippi Supreme Court
PartiesHARRIS v. STATE

Division A

APPEAL from circuit court of Coahoma county, Second district, HON W. A. ALCORN, JR., Judge.

Robert Harris was convicted of manslaughter, and he appeals. Reversed and remanded.

Reversed and remanded.

J. M Talbot, of Clarksdale, for appellant.

The corpus delicti must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stringfellow v. State, 26 Miss. 14; Pitts v. State, 43 Miss. 472; Haynes v. State, 27 So. 601.

Forrest B. Jackson, Assistant Attorney-General, for the state.

Evidence that a person was seriously wounded by the defendant and died shortly thereafter is sufficient to establish the corpus delicti.

Carter v. The State, 118 So. 369.

OPINION

McGowen, J.

On an indictment for murder appellant was convicted by the jury of manslaughter and sentenced by the court below to serve a term of twenty years in the state penitentiary.

The indictment charged murder in the killing of George Gaden. The killing is alleged to have occurred on a Saturday night or Sunday morning at a "supper"--a dice game interspersed with music and dancing. There was a difficulty between George Gaden and the appellant, Harris, after which Harris left the room in which a "crap game" had been in progress and then, according to the state's evidence, some ten or fifteen minutes later he came back in the room with an ax and "chopped" the back of Gaden's head making a gash four or five inches long and penetrating the skull. The state's evidence was to the effect that the blow was struck from the rear and at a time when Gaden did not know that his adversary was about to strike him. The appellant's evidence was to the effect that he struck the blow with the ax in self-defense. This occurred about four o'clock Sunday morning. Gaden stood up for some minutes, walked into another room and fell. Dr. Shannon attended Gaden from that time until Tuesday following when Gaden was put upon a train by the doctor in the care of Frank Morris and carried to Vicksburg and placed in some hospital. The state undertook to show that this same man died about four days later as a result of the wound inflicted with the ax by the appellant.

The main assignment of error, and the only one we shall consider, is that the state failed to prove the corpus delicti in this case. In other words, that the proof taken as a whole did not show that George Gaden, the man who was assaulted by the appellant with an ax, was dead at the time of the trial.

According to this record no one who ever knew Gaden ever saw him any more after he was left in some hospital in Vicksburg by Frank Morris, who testified on direct examination that he left Gaden at the State Charity Hospital; but on cross-examination admitted that he did not know whether or not he left Gaden at the State Charity Hospital or some other hospital. He did not give the name of any individual to whom he delivered the unconscious wounded man. The only other evidence in this record that George Gaden is dead is that of Marion Wheeler who said that he lived at Vicksburg Charity Hospital, and then there occurs this evidence:

"Q. Did you know George Gaden, in his lifetime? A. Didn't know him only until they brought him to the hospital.

"Q. Well, did you know him then? A. Yes, sir.

"Q. What was his condition when you saw him there at the hospital? A. Well, he was, his head was bursted on the back of his head, right here, when they brought him in there.

"Q. Well, was he conscious or unconscious, what was his general condition? A. He was unconscious.

"Q. Did he live or die? A. He died. . . .

"Q. Did you see his body, when he was dead? A. Yes, sir; I seed his body when it was dead. . . .

"Q. Do you know how long he had been there, before he died? A. About four days. . . .

"Q. Did he, during the time that he was there, and before his death, ever rally and seem to be recovering, or not? A. No, sir."

On cross-examination he said he held the man in his bed; that he was in a room with a number of other patients, he (Wheeler) being an attendant at the hospital. He further said that he never spoke to this man who died, and likewise the man never spoke to him. These questions and answers are quoted verbatim:

"Q. You never saw this man, before, in your life, until he was put in your room, there in the hospital? A. No, sir.

"Q. And didn't even know what his name was? A. No, sir.

"Q. Didn't even know who brought him there? A. No, sir; I don't know."

And he further said that the man who brought the wounded man there did not state the name of the patient to him. He said that the man who died was a man about sixty-five years of age, and then after a further description said: "Well, me somewhat his size, he didn't look to be as tall as I am, but it was a small, sized, medium man." "He was a dark colored man." And he testified that he never saw the man any more after he carried him to the "dead house." He did not know to whom this man, about whom he was testifying, was delivered at the hospital, nor by whom delivered, nor from whence he came, nor did he state what month or year or day of the month the death occurred.

It could be gathered from the record that this death must have occurred some time in the year 1928. The description of the man is entirely too meager upon which to base a verdict. There was no effort on the part of the state to introduce any of the officials, physicians, or the receiving clerk of the hospital in order to show the identity of this man who died in the care of the witness whose testimony we have set forth as above.

The attorney-general, in his brief, argues that Dr. Shannon testified that Marion Wheeler waited on and was with George Gaden prior to and at the time of his death, etc. We have read again and...

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14 cases
  • Keeton v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • April 6, 1936
    ... ... 969; State v. Lewis, 116 N.W ... 606; Moss v. State, 44 So. 598 ... The ... corpus delicti of the crime of murder is composed of two ... essential elements; first, the fact of death itself; and, ... second, that the death resulted from criminal agency ... Harris ... v. State, 155 Miss. 398, 124 So. 493; Walker v ... State, 140 Miss. 238, 105 So. 497 ... If what ... was said in the Walker case be true, then certainly the ... finding of these parts of a human body, which were identified ... by the prisoner as parts of her mother's body, ... ...
  • Dean v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • May 27, 1935
    ... ... 782, 63 So. 269; Felder v ... State, 108 Miss. 580, 67 So. 56; Thomas v ... State, 129 Miss. 332, 92 So. 225; Pitts v. State, 43 ... Miss. 72 ... Criminal ... agency may always be shown circumstantially ... Pitts ... v. State, 43 Miss. 72; Harris v. State, 155 Miss ... 298, 124 So. 493; Fisher v. State, 150 Miss. 206, ... 116 So. 746; Burdo v. State, 151 Miss. 161, 117 So ... 528; Walker v. State, 140 Miss. 238, 105 So. 497 ... A ... conflict serves only to raise a question for the jury ... Brice ... v ... ...
  • Dean v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • April 8, 1935
    ... ... State, 105 Miss. 782, 63 ... So. 269; Felder v. State, 108 Miss. 580, 67 So. 56; Thomas v ... State, 129 Miss. 332, 92 So. 225; Pitts v. State, 43 Miss ... Criminal ... agency may always be shown circumstantially ... Pitts ... v. State, 43 Miss. 72; Harris v. State, 155 Miss. 298, 124 ... So. 493; Fisher v. State, 150 Miss. 206, 116 So. 746; Burdo ... v. State, 151 Miss. 161, 117 So. 528; Walker v. State, 140 ... Miss. 238, 105 So. 497 ... A ... conflict serves only to raise a question for the jury ... Brice ... v. State, ... ...
  • Perkins v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1931
    ... ... GREEK L. RICE, ... Oscar ... Perkins was convicted of murder and he appeals. Affirmed ... [160 Miss. 721] ... Affirmed ... Dinkins ... & Wilroy, of Hernando, for appellant ... In the ... cases of Harris v. State, 155 Miss. 398, 124 So ... 493, and Pitts v. State, 43 Miss. 472, the necessary ... constituents of corpus delicti are clearly and distinctly ... stated as consisting of two elements of substantial ... fundamental facts: ... First ... The fact of the death of the person ... ...
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