Harris v. State, (No. 3389.)

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtDavidson
Citation172 S.W. 975
Docket Number(No. 3389.)
Decision Date20 January 1915
172 S.W. 975
(No. 3389.)
Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas.
January 20, 1915.

Appeal from District Court, Henderson County; John S. Prince, Judge.

Belton Harris was convicted of uxoricide, and he appeals. Reversed and remanded.

Ernest A. Landman, of Athens, for appellant. C. E. Lane, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.


The jury awarded appellant the death penalty under a plea of guilty of homicide. The evidence shows appellant killed his wife. Their lives had been not of the most comfortable sort during their marital relation. Appellant had been from his infancy affected with an uncontrollable temper, giving his family, when a boy, great trouble, so much so that they called in outsiders sometimes to try to help control him. When not in these passions of anger and rage he seems to have been affectionate with his family, and, in fact, it may be stated that he was a man who otherwise got along well with those with whom he came in contact. The conclusion may be reached from the testimony that he was at times harsh, if not cruel, with his wife, and jealous of her without cause; it seemed to have preyed upon his mind. He was continually looking for tracks about their residence, and reported that he had found tracks, and accused his wife of infidelity, and it would seem from the testimony that this was all without warrant. About a month prior to the homicide his wife separated from him and went to another home. On three or four occasions he visited her after this separation, seeking to induce her to return and live with him, promising that he never would mistreat her again, avowing his love and affection for her and the children. She steadily refused, however, to return. They had five children, all of whom accompanied the mother in the separation. On the evening of the homicide, passing the field where his wife was at work, her children being present, he hitched his horse, went into the field where his wife was, and undertook to persuade her to return and live with him, avowing all sorts of affection, promising not to mistreat her in the future. To this she turned the deaf ear. Then he told her he was going to apply to the court for a division of the children, stating that the court would award him some of the children. While in the field he approached the younger two children, picking them up, one under each arm, and left in the direction of his horse. His wife, who was chopping cotton, followed him with a hoe in her hand. In going across the field for some reason, either by the effect of the wind or stumbling, he lost his hat. He set the children down to get the hat. About this time the wife with the hoe was in close proximity, and he left and went across the fence where his horse was and secured a gun from the saddle and returned and told her that she must let him alone. Without going into detail he left, went back and got his horse and started down the road. The road was just outside and near the field. His wife followed along

Page 976

on the inside of the field for some distance, when he got down and took his gun and shot his wife, killing her. As to the immediate facts there is quite a lot of testimony, and as usual the testimony is variant. There was no question as to the fact that deceased had the hoe in her left hand as she was going down the fence. Some of the testimony indicates that her right hand was under her clothing on her breast. The state took issue with this latter fact. A witness, Mrs. Hunter, who dressed the body of deceased, shows that the wounds in the body were in the breast, some of the shot also striking the left arm, several of them striking the right hand, shooting off two fingers, splitting another, and shooting off one of the knuckle joints. This testimony seems not to have been controverted. This testimony shows that the right hand was on the breast at the time of the shot; there being but one shot fired. He got on his horse after this and rode away. There is quite a lot of testimony introduced on the issue of insanity. There is some indication that the defendant first entered a plea of not guilty, but this is not shown by the judgment or any certificate of the judge, but it is shown that he entered a plea of guilty, and the judge certifies that he had a commission of doctors to examine into the sanity of appellant, and that two of these physicians made a report. The report of these physicians is here copied:

"We, your commissioners, appointed to pass upon the sanity of defendant in the above-styled case, beg leave to report that after examining 15 witnesses and the defendant, Belton Harris, we find the said defendant, Belton Harris, knows right from wrong, although we believe that the said Belton Harris is mentally defective as result of not being able to control his temper in his early days. We believe he was born mentally weak, and the lack of proper training and control developed uncontrollable temper which became an irresistible impulse to accomplish his ends regardless of consequences.

 "Percy Larkin, M. D.,
                 "J. K. Webster, M. D.,

The judge files a statement officially signed that he appointed these two physicians in connection with Dr. W. A. French, and he received their report, and, in addition, heard the testimony of one of the physicians touching the sanity of the defendant, and, having talked with defendant in person, etc., it appeared to him the defendant was...

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35 cases
  • North Carolina v. Alford, 14
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • November 17, 1969
    ...expression to the principle that '(o)ur law only authorizes a conviction where guilt is shown,' Harris v. State, 76 Tex.Cr.R. 126, 131, 172 S.W. 975, 977 (1915), require that trial judges reject such pleas. See, e.g., Hulsey v. United States, 369 F.2d 284, 287 (CA5 1966); United States ex r......
  • Moon v. State, 54352
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • October 4, 1978
    ...defendant's guilty plea or nolo contendere plea and enter a not guilty plea for the defendant. E. G. Harris v. State (76 Tex.Cr.R. 126), 172 S.W. 975 (Tex.Cr.App.1915); Edwards v. State (134 Tex.Cr.R. 153), 114 S.W.2d 572 (Tex.Cr.App.1938); Navarro v. State (141 Tex.Cr.R. 196), 147 S.W.2d 1......
  • Thornton v. State, s. 60310
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • November 21, 1979
    .... . it would be the duty of the court to see that no conviction was had" for, as the Court insisted in Harris v. State, 76 Tex.Cr.R. 176, 172 S.W. 975, 977 ". . . Our law only authorizes a conviction where guilt is shown. If there be no legal guilt, a conviction could not be sustained, alth......
  • Martin v. State, No. 08-02-00144-CR (Tex. App. 1/15/2004), 08-02-00144-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • January 15, 2004
    ...must be sua sponte entered by the trial court. Griffin v. State, 703 S.W.2d 193, 195 (Tex.Crim.App. 1986); see also Harris v. State, 172 S.W. 975 (Tex.Crim.App. 1915); Edwards v. State 114 S.W.2d 572 (Tex.Crim.App. 1938); Navarro v. State, 147 S.W.2d 1081 (Tex.Crim.App. 1941); Rayson v. Sta......
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