In re Opinion of the Judges

Decision Date04 May 1921
Docket Number3976.
Citation197 P. 546,18 Okla.Crim. 598
CourtUnited States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

Syllabus by the Court.

The statute providing (section 2319, Rev. Laws 1910) that upon a plea of guilty of murder the court shall determine whether the defendant shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for life at hard labor is constitutional and valid, and where a defendant who has been informed against for a capital crime in a court of competent jurisdiction pleads guilty, such court is authorized to pronounce judgment and sentence against such defendant according to law. In such a case there is no issue to be submitted to a jury.

Hon. J B. A. Robertson, Governor of the State of Oklahoma--Sir:

The Judges of the Criminal Court of Appeals responding to your official communication, as Governor of Oklahoma, to this court, which presents for consideration of the Judges of the court the record of conviction of William Tait, who was, on April 14, 1921, by the judgment of the district court of Comanche county, sentenced to suffer death by electrocution and fixing June 14, 1921, as the date of execution, with the request that we give an opinion thereon, as provided by section 5969, Rev. Laws, we would hereby respectfully submit the following opinion of the Judges:

The Code of Criminal Procedure of the state of Oklahoma provides that:

"The judge of a court at which a conviction requiring a judgment of death is had, must, immediately after the conviction, transmit to the Governor, by mail or otherwise, a statement of the conviction and judgment, and of the testimony given at the trial." Section 5968, Rev. Laws.

And that:

"The Governor may thereupon require the opinion of the judges of the Criminal Court of Appeals, or any of them, upon the statement so furnished." Sec. 5969 Rev. Laws.

C. W Simpson, court clerk of Comanche county, duly certified a copy of the information and the judgment and sentence, and a written confession subscribed and sworn to by the defendant on March 31, 1921; also a transcript of the testimony of the defendant William Tait, as a witness for his codefendant, C. W. Goben, upon the trial of said codefendant. In accordance with the requirement of section 5968, Rev. Laws, Hon. A. S. Wells, judge of the district court of Comanche county, transmitted the same to the Governor.

The record so transmitted shows that on April 12, 1921, Fletcher S. Riley, county attorney of Comanche county, filed an information in the district court of said county, jointly charging William Tait and C. W. Goben with the murder of one Russell Sprague, alleged to have been committed in said county on the 25th day of March, 1921; that on the 12th day of April, 1921, the defendant William Tait, present in person and by his attorney, in open court, was duly arraigned upon the charge of murder, and said information was by the court clerk read to the said defendant William Tait. Thereupon the defendant William Tait in open court entered a plea of guilty of the crime of murder as charged in said information. Thereupon the court fixed the 14th day of April, 1921, as the time at which judgment should be pronounced upon his plea of guilty, at which time the court pronounced judgment and sentenced the defendant William Tait to suffer death by electrocution within the walls of the penitentiary at McAlester, on the 14th day of June, 1921.

In his written confession, subscribed to and verified by his oath on the 31st day of March, 1921, he admits that he fired the fatal shot, and that the murder was committed in the perpetration of a robbery. The transcript of testimony submitted shows that the defendant William Tait, called as a witness on the trial of his codefendant, C. W. Goben and being first duly sworn, testified that, at a farm about 11 miles east of Lawton, in the presence of his codefendant, C W. Goben, he hit the deceased, Russell Sprague, on the head with the butt end of a six-shooter; that Sprague fell to the floor, and he took from his person $13 in bills; that he and said codefendant carried deceased from the house and put him in a car, that his codefendant, Goben, drove the car to a creek, and he told his codefendant, ...

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