Nels v. State

Decision Date31 December 1847
Citation2 Tex. 280
CourtTexas Supreme Court

Appeal from Red River County.

It is not only the privilege of a judge, in all cases, but his duty when called on, to state what the law is to the jury, without regard to what had or had not been read to them, as law, by the counsel on either side.

It is the peculiar and exclusive province of a jury to weigh the evidence; and it is their duty to find the facts alone from the evidence, and to look for them to no other quarter whatever. For the law, it is their duty to look to the court.

In a criminal case, the jury are not authorized to give the slightest weight to any admissions or statements of counsel as to the facts.

If, in the record of a criminal prosecution, it nowhere appears that the jury who tried the prisoner were sworn, it is a fatal defect, and the case will be reversed on appeal.

The appellant was indicted and tried for murder, and a verdict of “guilty” found by the jury. Motions were made to set aside the verdict, and in arrest of judgment, both of which were overruled. Among the various grounds assigned in support of these motions in the court below, only one appears to have been regarded as material in this court. It is as follows, to wit: “The court erred in stating to the jury in his charge, that the attorneys for the state and the defendant had mistaken the law governing the case, and in reading, from Chitty's Criminal Law, principles for law which had not been read by the attorneys for the state, nor referred to in argument, whereby defendant was deprived of opportunity of commenting upon said principle of law, and proving to the jury, if he could, its erroneousness or inapplicability to the case.

Martin, Morrill and Evans, for appellant.

Harris, Attorney General, for appellee.

Mr. Justice WHEELER delivered the opinion of the court.

It appears from the record that the slave, Nels, was indicted and put upon his trial for murder at the fall term, 1846, of the district court for the county of Red River. The record of the trial recited that the prisoner was arraigned and pleaded not guilty; “whereupon came a jury of good and lawful men …. who after hearing the evidence adduced, and the argument of counsel, and the charge of the court given, upon their retirement returned into court the following verdict, to wit: we, the jury, find the prisoner, Nels, guilty in manner and form as charged in this indictment.’ 'DDD'

The prisoner's counsel moved the court to set aside the verdict and grant him a new trial, and also in arrest of judgment. Both motions were overruled. In the opinion of the court, which accompanies the record, the various grounds assigned in support of the motions are discussed, and the facts deemed material to the correct disposition of them set forth.

We deem it unnecessary to enter into a particular examination of the various questions presented and discussed in the record, as they will not be material to the ultimate disposition of the case.

The 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th specifications, embraced in the motion and discussed in the opinion of the judge, relate to the charge of the court to the jury.

It undoubtedly was not only the privilege but the duty of the judge to give in charge to the jury the law of the case, without regard to what had or had not been read to them by counsel, either for or against the prisoner. And if, in his opinion, the counsel on either side had mistaken or misrepresented the law to the jury, it was his undoubted province to correct the mistake or misrepresentation; to disembarrass...

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15 cases
  • People v. Bruner
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • February 18, 1931
    ...Y. 588;State v. Drawdy, 48 S. C. L. (14 Rich. Law) 87;State v. Syphrett, 27 S. C. 29, 2 S. E. 624, 13 Am. St. Rep. 616, and note; Nels v. State, 2 Tex. 280;Dejarnette v. Commonwealth, 75 Va. 867;Gottlieb v. Commonwealth, 126 Va. 807, 101 S. E. 872;State v. Burpee, 65 Vt. 1, 25 A. 964, 19 L.......
  • Sparf v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • January 21, 1895
    ...v. State, 66 Ga. 517; Brown v. State, 40 Ga. 689, 695; Hunt v. State (Ga.) 7 S. E. 142; State v. Drawdy, 14 Rich. Law, 87; Nels v. Republic, 2 Tex. 280; Myers v. State, 33 Tex. 525; State v. Jones, 64 Mo. 391; Hardy v. State, 7 Mo. 607; State v. Elwood, 73 N. C. 189; State v. McLain, 104 N.......
  • State v. Shuff
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • May 28, 1903
    ... ... himself to an officer cannot be used against him unless it be ... satisfactorily shown that such statements or admissions were ... made entirely voluntarily and without any hope of reward or ... promises of immunity from the officer. ( Nels v ... State, 2 Tex. 280; Williams v. State (Tex. Cr ... App.), 44 S.W. 1103; Clayton v. State, 4 Tex. Ct ... App. 515.) ... The ... twelfth error assigned is: "The verdict was contrary to ... the law and the evidence." ... We have ... disposed of all the alleged ... ...
  • Walker v. State
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
    • September 18, 1991
    ...irrespective of any admissions by the prisoner's counsel, or any grounds upon which they may have rested his defence." Nels v. The State, 2 Tex. 280, at 281-283 (1847) (original Still applying the 1846 statute, in similar vein the Supreme Court explained: "The error assigned in the charge o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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