Largin v. Com.

Citation208 S.E.2d 775, 215 Va. 318
Case DateOctober 14, 1974
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia

Robert T. Wandrei, Bedford (Radford & Wandrei, Bedford, on brief), for plaintiff in error.

Robert E. Shepherd, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen. (Andrew P. Miller, Atty. Gen., on brief), for defendant in error.


POFF, Justice.

On the testimony of the arresting officer and Mrs. Carolyn Folden, an admitted accomplice, Daniel Bruce Largin was convicted by a jury of statutory burglary and, in accordance with the verdict, was sentenced to 20 years in the penitentiary. On direct examination, Mrs. Folden, who had previously been convicted on a guilty plea as Largin's accomplice and was awaiting sentencing, testified that she had participated with Largin in the burglary; that she was not divorced from her husband; that Largin had fathered her month-old child; and that she was still in love with Largin. On cross-examination, she testified that Largin 'may have' told her that he did not want to marry her; that her attorney had told her that the Commonwealth would recommend a suspended sentence in her case; and that she was 'hoping for that.'

Under the limited writ of error, Largin contends that the trial court erred 'in admitting into evidence the allegation of Carolyn Folden that Daniel Bruce Largin was the father of her illegitimate child.' Largin argues that a witness is presumed to be truthful; that this presumption subsists until his truthfulness is attacked; and that the general rule is that until a witness is impeached, evidence designed to enhance his credibility is inadmissible. Conceding the general rule, the Commonwealth argues that when the witness is an accomplice the rule does not apply.

We agree with the Commonwealth. As we said in Blount v. Commonwealth, 213 Va. 807, 810, 195 S.E.2d 693, 695 (1973), '(a)lthough the jury may convict an accused upon the unsupported testimony of an accomplice, such evidence should be received and acted upon with great caution.' This is so because, in the words of the instruction granted at Largin's request, 'the source of such evidence is tainted with the temptation to exculpate (oneself) by laying the crime upon another'. When a witness confesses complicity in the criminal act with which the defendant is charged, or when his complicity is otherwise shown, the presumption of truthfulness no longer prevails, the witness stands impeached, and evidence enhancing credibility, if otherwise competent, is admissible.

But Largin insists that the evidence used to enhance Mrs. Folden's credibility was incompetent for other reasons. He says that it was irrelevant and that it 'had the effect of accusing the defendant of committing the misdemeanor of fornication, showing him to be a person of poor moral character.'

We hold that Mrs. Folden's testimony that Largin was the father of her illegitimate child tended to show a bias in favor of the defendant and was therefore relevant to enhance the credibility of her testimony incriminating the defendant. Relevance was not impaired by the fact that the act of conception occurred some ten months before the testimony was given, because the witness testified that she was still in love with Largin.

Whether, when the charge is other than a sexual offense, evidence of illicit sexual...

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16 cases
  • Satcher v. Com., s. 920247
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • September 18, 1992
    ...Day, which has not been overruled and which has been cited as controlling authority in numerous cases. See Largin v. Commonwealth, 215 Va. 318, 320, 208 S.E.2d 775, 777 (1974); Bunting v. Commonwealth, 208 Va. 309, 314, 157 S.E.2d 204, 208 (1967); Rees v. Commonwealth, 203 Va. 850, 870, 127......
  • Scialdone v. Com.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • January 13, 2009
    ...court failed to give a cautionary instruction unless he asked the trial court to give a cautionary instruction. Largin v. Commonwealth, 215 Va. 318, 321, 208 S.E.2d 775, 777 (1974); Berry v. Commonwealth, 22 Va.App. 209, 214, 468 S.E.2d 685, 687-88 6. A defendant's notice to the court that ......
  • Lewis v. Com., Record No. 041390.
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • March 3, 2005
    ...referred to prior unrelated crimes of the defendant was admissible because it bore on the witness' credibility); Largin v. Commonwealth, 215 Va. 318, 319, 208 S.E.2d 775, 776 (1974) (exposing defense witness as mother of defendant's illegitimate child did not have the effect of accusing the......
  • Com. v. Haraldstad
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • August 25, 1983
    ...... If a witness in one case will be a defendant in another case based on the same facts, the presumption that the witness testifies truthfully falls away, and evidence enhancing credibility, if otherwise competent, may be admitted. This is the view taken in Largin v. Commonwealth, 215 Va. 318, 318-319, 208 S.E.2d 775 (1974). It is not unusual [16 Mass.App.Ct. 572] in our practice to permit prosecutors in certain circumstances to inquire of a witness whether any deal or inducement has been offered for his testimony. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Johnson, 16 ......
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