People v. Doran

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtCRANE
Citation246 N.Y. 409,159 N.E. 379
Decision Date22 November 1927

246 N.Y. 409
159 N.E. 379


Court of Appeals of New York.

Nov. 22, 1927.

Charles J. Doran was convicted of first degree murder, and he appeals.


Lehman, J., and Cardozo, C. J., dissenting.

[246 N.Y. 410]Appeal from Supreme Court, Trial Term, Albany County.

[159 N.E. 380]

Ransom H. Gillett, of Albany, for appellant.

246 N.Y. 411]Charles J. Herrick, Dist. Atty., of Albany, for the People.

Raymond E. Jackson was a native of the city of Albany, and kept a soft drink and ice cream parlor on New Scotland avenue near Allen street in that city. On the night of November 6, 1926, he was murdered while being robbed of his money. The defendant, Charles J. Doran, has been tried and convicted of the murder.

[246 N.Y. 412][1] Doran swore on the trial that he was 23 years of age, unmarried, and a resident of Albany; that he had been, and was, a taxi driver, a friend and pal of another taxi driver named George Many, and of a man named Floyd Damp. These three had made it a business, so he testifies, of holding up and robbing citizens of Albany. No better description of him can be given than he gave of himself in his own words on direct examination by his own counsel:

‘It was about the fourth day I was working there, the first week I worked (at the Cadillac Taxi) that we went out on a holdup. * * * Why Slim, Duke, Damp, and Many and myself went out on different holdups several times. Damp had a Buick car with him.’

Even after the murder on the night of November 6, 1926, he testifies:

‘Q. And did you continue that practice of driving cars for them? A. Why yes, I drove on a few holdups since.’

One of these holdups, so he tells us in his testimony on the stand, was to be the place on New Scotland avenue. Just prior to the night of November 6th, he drove with the others to look the place over and hold it up, but at the time there were too many people about to commit the crime. They separated, making an appointment for Saturday night, November 6th, the night of the holdup and murder.

As all of this is told by the defendant himself upon the stand, in his direct examination, we start the discussion of this case with these conceded facts.

On the trial, Damp and Many were witnesses for the prosecution. Damp testified that he owned the Buick coupé and a .32-caliber pistol, which he kept in the pocket of the car. He corroborates the defendant's testimony in saying that, about a week previous to the 6th of November he, Doran, and a man named Harrington drove out to Jackson's store to look the place over, and planned to rob it on the night of the 6th. When that night came, the three drove out to Jackson's, and Doran and Harrington went in to hold it up. He (Damp) having [246 N.Y. 413]parked his car, followed to see what would happen. The .32-caliber pistol had been taken by Doran, and an automatic gun had been given by Doran to Harrington. This automatic had been borrowed from Many. While the two men were in Jackson's place, Damp, who was on the outside near the door, heard a shot, and Doran and Harrington ran out. All three got in the Buick car and drove off. Doran said to him: ‘Step on it, kid. I had to shoot him.’ George Many testified that on the next night, November 7th, he met Doran on the streets of Albany, and asked him why he had shot Jackson, and Doran said that he had to do it, as Jackson was reaching for a gun. He further swore:

‘And I asked Doran how much he got, and Doran said $80. I said: ‘It was worth 80,000.’ I asked Doran if there was anybody in the store at the time he robbed Jackson. Doran said a kid came in. Doran said he made the kid lie down on the floor. Jackson reached for a gun which laid on the counter. ‘I shot Jackson, and ran out.’ I asked Doran if he thought the kid would recognize him. Doran said: ‘I do not think so; I had my collar way up, and my cap well pulled down.’'

Another witness was Frank Scheuer, who testified that on the night of the murder he met Doran in Albany, who told him that he had just shot a fellow. And the next night, Sunday night, Doran met him in a restaurant and said:

“Did you read about the murder in the paper this morning?' I told him ‘Yes,’ and he said: ‘Well, that is the shooting I told you about last night.”

Again, from the lips of Arthur John Hall, in no way mixed up in these affairs, we have the story that he met Doran on the night of the murder some time after 11 o'clock in Albany, and had a conversation, in which Doran told him that there was a shooting affair on New Scotland avenue and to watch the papers the next day. Having read the papers, Hall said to Doran on Sunday, ‘That man in New Scotland avenue died,’ [246 N.Y. 414]but Doran made no reply. Doran on the stand admits the substance of this conversation with Hall.

In Jackson's place, on the night of the robbery, a gathering of young boys was being held in the basement of the place. It was their meeting room. One of these boys, Jack Shaddock, was coming in the front door of the ice cream parlor when he saw two strange men holding up Jackson, who cried out: ‘Help, kid, I am being robbed.’ One of the men forced the boy to lie down, face downward, and, while in that position, he heard a shot, and the men run out. He identified Harrington, but could not see the face of the other

[159 N.E. 381

man. Other persons in the neighborhood testified that the men in the holdup went off in a Buick car.

Doran confessed. He told the police officers and the district attorney all about the affair, and his own part in it. His confession was taken down in writing and admitted in evidence. His story does not materially vary from that of Damp's, except that he claimed that the shooting was unintentional—an accident. He said in reference to the young boy Shaddock coming in:

‘And Chick [Harrington] was excited and started to run—he must have seen the kid coming in, and I didn't know what was running off—I was faced looking out the window, and the gun was like that [illustrating] and I turned around and the first thing I know I got a shove like that [illustrating], and then the thing happened, so I forgot all about—I forgot all about Ted being in there alone with him, and I didn't know what they were doing, and the first thing you know he came flying out at me.

‘Q. Who did? A. Ted [Harrington]. He came flying right across me, and caught me like that [illustrating] with the one hand, and the other hand went over my left shoulder, and I had the gun in my hand I couldn't swear whether the gun went off or not, but it must have, because he was shot.’

To answer all this on the trial, the defendant sought [246 N.Y. 415]to deny his confession and to prove an alibi. The alibi consisted of the defendant's testimony that at the time of the shooting he was in a movie with his sweetheart, one Lucille Davis, a senior in the State College for Teachers. He attempted to support the alibi by her testimony, but she proved to be a doubtful witness, She admitted that she lied to Dr. Brubacher, the president of the State College for Teachers, and Dean Pierce, the head of the Women's College, in telling them that she was married to Doran. The doctor also denies that she ever told him that she was with Doran on the night of the murder. She had testified that, while she had never told the police or any one in authority of Doran being at the movies with her, yet she had told it to Dr. Brubacher. This, I say, he denies.

This, in substance, is the case for and against Doran, and on the testimony I do not see how any jury could have come to any other conclusion that that he was guilty of having killed Raymond E. Jackson on the night of November 6th, while in the commission of the crime of robbery.

One of the chief grounds thrust upon our attention as calling for a reversal of this conviction is the admission of Doran's confession. It is said that the court should have excluded it altogether from the case, as it was proved to have been made under the influence of fear produced by threats. Code Crim. Proc. § 395.

When the point in the trial was reached at which the prosecution sought to introduce the confession, the learned trial justice very fairly and in accordance with our procedure took testimony both for the prosecution and for the defense upon the question of whether or not the confession was voluntary or was the outcome of fear and violence. Upon this question there was a dispute of fact. Doran, called as a witness in his own behalf at this stage of the prosecution, testified that he did not know what he was saying because of the beatings which [246 N.Y. 416]he had received from the police officers. Numerous witnesses, hereafter referred to, contradicted him, and showed that the confession was made both to the officers and to the assistant district attorney voluntarily, and after Doran had been confronted both by Harrington and by Damp, who had confessed.

[2] Here was an issue of fact. Who was to decide it? The jury. They heard all the testimony, and the court left it to them to say, after a very full and complete charge, whether or not the confession was voluntarily made, and instructed them that, if they concluded that it was not voluntary, but had been obtained under the influence of fear produced by threats, they should throw it out of the case altogether, and disregard it. The judge told them that the people must prove and they must find it to be a voluntary confession before it could be received as evidence. This is not only according to the practice in this state in the trial of criminal cases, but is also the law. When there is a conflict of evidence as to whether a confession is or is not voluntary, if the court decides that it is admissible, the question may be left to the jury with the direction that they should reject the confession, if upon the whole evidence they are satisfied it was not the voluntary act of the defendant. Wilson v. U. S., 162 U. S. 613, 624, 16 S. Ct. 895, 40 L. Ed. 1090;Commonwealth v. Preece, 140...

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