People v. Barbato

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Citation172 N.E. 458,254 N.Y. 170
Decision Date08 July 1930

254 N.Y. 170
172 N.E. 458


Court of Appeals of New York.

July 8, 1930.

Joseph Barbato was convicted of murder in first degree, and he appeals.

Reversed, and new trial ordered.

[172 N.E. 459]

[254 N.Y. 171]Appeal from Bronx County Court.

Peter L. F. Sabbatino, David H. Slade, and Maxwell Slade, all of New York City, for appellant.

Charles B. McLaughlin, Dist. Atty., of New York City (Sol Boneparth, Israel J. P. Adlerman, and Herman J. Fliederblum, all of New York City, of counsel), for the People.

[254 N.Y. 172]POUND, J.

Julia Musso Quintieri was stangled to death in her apartment in the borough of The Bronx at some time late Saturday night, September 14, 1929, or early Sunday morning, September 15, 1929. The question is whether the jury was justified in finding from the competent evidence received on the trial that defendant committed the act of killing. The defense was an alibi. The people relied on the evidence of defendant's confessions to establish his guilt. The learned trial judge received the evidence of such confessions and left to the jury the question as to whether they were voluntary under Code of Criminal Procedure, § 395. He instructed the jury that they must acquit the defendant if they found that the confessions were the result of beatings or of fear produced by threats. The defendant testified that the confessions were extorted from him by threats and force and that he was under the influence of fear when he made them. The people's witnesses—police officers—denied that any threats or force were used, although defendant was detained by them without legal warrant until the alleged confessions were obtained—a practice condemned by this court in People v. Trybus, 219 N. Y. 18, 22,113 N. E. 538. If the confessions thus obtained were made voluntarily, their reception in evidence is not illegal as matter of law (Balbo v. People, 80 N. Y. 484), although the circumstance may be regarded as significant as bearing on the question of credibility.

[254 N.Y. 173] Confessions thus obtained by police officers from persons accused of crime are often offered and almost as often repudiated by defendants when on trial on the ground that they were ‘made under the influence of fear produced by threats.’ The police officers invariably deny, as in this case, that threats or violence were used. The question then arises as to the admissibility of the confessions in evidence. The rule has recently been stated by this court with precision and care: ‘The question whether there is any evidence of the existence of a voluntary confession is one of law. In the first instance, this question must, of course, be decided by the trial judge. If the evidence shows without dispute that the confession was extorted by force or fear, or if a verdict that it was freely made would be clearly against the weight of evidence, the judge should reject it. Only where a fair question of fact is presented should the jury be permitted to determine whether the confession is voluntary. If there is no such conflict, and if the evidence points clearly to the involuntary nature of the confession, the judge should exclude it as without evidence to support it.’ People v. Weiner, 248 N. Y. 118, 122, 161 N. E. 441, 443.

When the evidence of the people meets the evidence of the defendants as oath against oath, with no corroboration on either side, a fair question of credibility is presented for the jury to decide. Rarely does the evidence on a criminal trial proceed beyond this point. When the evidence tends to show that the defendant's tale of threats or beating is false and that the confession was voluntary, as, for example, when no bruises are seen on the defendant's body and when with full opportunity he makes no prompt complaint to officials or friends, the trial judge should submit the question to the jury, even though the circumstances in which the confession is obtained may be suspicious. People v. Doran, 246 N. Y. 409, 159 N. E. 379. But when the weight of evidence indicates that the confession was made under the influence of fear produced by threats [254 N.Y. 174]the judge should refuse to admit the statement. People v. Weiner, supra. The confession may have been made after the threats or to parties other than the coercing officers so as to present a question for the jury whether it was given under the influence of the threats (Reg. v. Rue, 13 Cox's Crim. Cas. 209; People v. Trybus, supra), or other combinations of circumstances may arise; but, speaking in generalities, the above statement of the rule will

[172 N.E. 460]

suffice for the present. Whether true or false, confessions obtained in violation of section 395 of the Code of Criminal Procedure are not sufficient to sustain a conviction.

A careful analysis of the evidence indicates that when defendant was taken into custody by the police officers at nine o'clock in the afternoon on Sunday, September 15, at Sunnydale farm near Newburgh, he asserted his innocence and said that he had left New York before the hour when the crime was committed; that he was taken to New York to the Fifty-Second precinct police station on Monday, September 16, at 12:05 or 12:10 a. m.; that the district attorney was there and questioned him; that he still asserted his innocence; that after three-quarters of an hour the district attorney departed leaving defendant in the hands of three police officers; that thereafter, about 6 o'clock in the morning of September 16, defendant wrote on a card the words, ‘I kill Julia Musso’; that about noon on September 16 a stenographic record was taken of an interview with defendant by an assistant...

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  • Stein v. People of State of New York Wissner v. People of State of New York Cooper v. People of State of New York
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1953 in no sense final, binding the accused only until reviewed by the Supreme Court of the United States.' 25. See People v. Barbato, 254 N.Y. 170, 172 N.E. 458. 26. N.Y.Code Crim.Proc. § 618b; cf. Fed.Rules Crim.Proc., 46(b), 18 U.S.C.A. 27. Malinski v. People of State of New York, 324 U.S.......
  • Stagemeyer v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • June 18, 1937
    ...N.E. 906, 908, 85 A.L.R. 939;State v. Nagle, 326 Mo. 661, 32 S.W.(2d) 596;People v. Weiner, 248 N.Y. 118, 161 N.E. 441;People v. Barbato, 254 N.Y. 170, 172 N.E. 458;Garrett v. State, 52 Tex.Cr.R. 255, 106 S.W. 389. See, also, Ridenour v. Lewis, 121 Neb. 823, 238 N.W. 745, 80 A.L. R. 119. [9......
  • People v. Estrialgo
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • October 29, 1962
    ...And, if following such unlawful arrest, he should confess his crime he may be convicted. (Balbo v. People, 80 N.Y. 484; People v. Barbato, 254 N.Y. 170, 172 N.E. 458; People v. Kylczek, 307 Ill. 150, 138 N.E. 275, 277; Driver v. State, [37 Misc.2d 271] 201 Md. 25, 92 A.2d 570, 573; State v.......
  • Stagemeyer v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • June 18, 1937
    ...N.E. 906, 908, 85 A.L.R. 939; State v. Nagle, 326 Mo. 661, 32 S.W.(2d) 596; People v. Weiner, 248 N.Y. 118, 161 N.E. 441; People v. Barbato, 254 N.Y. 170, 172 N.E. 458; Garrett v. State, 52 Tex.Cr.R. 255, 106 389.See, also, Ridenour v. Lewis, 121 Neb. 823, 238 N.W. 745, 80 A.L.R. 119. In th......
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