People v. Downs

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtFINCH
Citation25 N.E. 988,123 N.Y. 558
PartiesPEOPLE v. DOWNS.
Decision Date02 December 1890

123 N.Y. 558
25 N.E. 988

PEOPLE
v.
DOWNS.

Court of Appeals of New York.

Dec. 2, 1890.


Appeal from supreme court, general term, third department.


[123 N.Y. 559]Lewis E. Griffith and John P. Kelly, Dist.
Atty., for the People.

[123 N.Y. 560]Orin Gambell and J. K. Long, for respondent.


[123 N.Y. 561]FINCH, J.

The defendant was convicted of manslaughter in the first degree, but the general term has reversed that conviction for alleged error in the charge to the jury; and [123 N.Y. 562]from that reversal the people have appealed to this court, insisting that the charge, fairly construed, was correct and violated no established legal rule. The prosecution proved the corpus delicti, the death of Logan, and the violence which caused it, by direct evidence which was in no respect disputed. His dead body was found upon the premises of the prisoner shot through the heart. The bullet had penetrated his clothing and entered his breast in a manner indicating that he was facing his antagonist when the shot was fired. The absence from the clothing of the deceased of anything like scorch or stain of powder was claimed to indicate that the weapon when fired was not in contract with his person, but at some distance from him, greater or less. The bullet was taken from the body. A pistol was found in the prisoner's room, under his bureau, having 10 chambers, the central one carrying a bullet of 32 caliber, and the 9 surrounding it of 22. A discharged shell was found in the central chamber, which the bullet taken from the body of the deceased fitted, while the 9 smaller cartridges remained undischarged. On the day of the homicide, at about midnight, the prisoner aroused a neighbor named Morey, and Dr. Harvie, saying to each that he had shot his best friend, or was afraid he had shot his best friend, but giving no explanation of the circumstances; and they, going with him to the house, found Logan lying dead near the entrance to the summer kitchen. The prisoner was pale and nervous, and on finding Logan dead was taken with a fit of vomiting, but made no effort to escape, and quietly surrendered himself to the officers who were summoned and took him into custody. He was entirely sober, and there was no evidence of intoxication. His previous relations with Logan, who was a married man, were those of intimate friendship without anything to mar or disturb it. That was the case made by the prosecution, and it presented to the jury a problem with very slight material for its solution. That Logan met his death from a pistol discharged in the hands of Downs was sufficiently proved, but whether the shot was fired intentionally[123 N.Y. 563]or accidentally, and, if intentionally, for what reason, did not appear. The evidence disclosed no possible motive for an intentional homicide, and left the character and grade of the crime, if one had been committed, an unexplained mystery. One circumstance, however, would be sure to attract the attention of an intelligent jury. They would ask how Logan came to be at the rear of the house, near the entrance to its living rooms, at midnight; and what he was doing there when he should have been at home with his wife and children. The saloon was in the front part of the house opening onto the street. It was closed for the night, and there has been no brawl or quarrel or disturbance there during the evening. The presence of Logan in the rear of the house, at or near midnight, and the absence of any previous quarrel or difficulty, would make it reasonably certain that something due to his presence, and sufficiently grave and serious to account for an intentional or accidental homicide, had actually occurred. What that was we have no means of knowing except through the explanation given by Downs and his wife. He testifies, in brief, that he was aroused by the noise of a scuffle in the back kitchen; that he seized the pistol, which lay upon a stand near his bed, and rushed out; that he found Logan and Mrs. Downs on the floor in the act of adultery or rape, according as the woman was consenting or resisting; that he seized Logan, who at once attacked him, and in the struggle the pistol went off; and that this was after the woman had left the room, and, as she says, while she was at the front door going out for help or escape. She testifies that Logan seized her and threw her down, but does not say whether with her consent, or why she made no outcry. Of course this explanation was open to the criticism of the prosecution...

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25 practice notes
  • People v. Cunningham
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • May 13, 1980
    ...supra, at 180). The principles enunciated in Stokes have been followed and reasserted many times since 1873 (see, e. g., People v. Downs, 123 N.Y. 558, 25 N.E. 988 (1890); People v. Fish, 125 N.Y. 136, 26 N.E. 319 (1891); People v. Cooke, 292 N.Y. 185, 54 N.E.2d 357 (1944)). The jury instru......
  • Frank v. United States, No. 6065.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 7, 1930
    ...32 So. 896; People v. Epaski, 57 App. Div. 91, 67 N. Y. S. 1033; People v. Shanley, 49 App. Div. 56, 63 N. Y. S. 449; People v. Downs, 123 N. Y. 558, 25 N. E. 988; Petty v. State, 76 Ark. 516, 89 S. W. 465; Zipperian v. People, 33 Colo. 134, 79 P. 1018; Trogdon v. State, 133 Ind. 1, 32 N. E......
  • People v. Thomas
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • June 5, 1980
    ...court, to be erroneous as a matter of State law (Stokes v. People, 53 N.Y. 164, 179; People v. Baker, 96 N.Y. 340, 350; People v. Downs, 123 N.Y. 558, 564-568, 25 N.E. 988; People v. Flack, 125 N.Y. 324, 335, 26 N.E. 267; People v. Weiss, 290 N.Y. 160, 171, 48 N.E.2d 306). Thus the defendan......
  • Sparf v. United States, No. 613
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 21, 1895
    ...v. U. S., 97 U. S. 237, 266. See, also, Potter v. U. S., 155 U. S. 438, 15 Sup. Ct. 144; Com. v. McKie, 1 Gray, 61; People v. Downs, 123 N. Y. 558, 25 N. E. 988. Upon the trial of an indictment under a statute of the territory of Utah, establishing two degrees of murder, with different puni......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • People v. Cunningham
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • May 13, 1980
    ...supra, at 180). The principles enunciated in Stokes have been followed and reasserted many times since 1873 (see, e. g., People v. Downs, 123 N.Y. 558, 25 N.E. 988 (1890); People v. Fish, 125 N.Y. 136, 26 N.E. 319 (1891); People v. Cooke, 292 N.Y. 185, 54 N.E.2d 357 (1944)). The jury instru......
  • Frank v. United States, No. 6065.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 7, 1930
    ...32 So. 896; People v. Epaski, 57 App. Div. 91, 67 N. Y. S. 1033; People v. Shanley, 49 App. Div. 56, 63 N. Y. S. 449; People v. Downs, 123 N. Y. 558, 25 N. E. 988; Petty v. State, 76 Ark. 516, 89 S. W. 465; Zipperian v. People, 33 Colo. 134, 79 P. 1018; Trogdon v. State, 133 Ind. 1, 32 N. E......
  • People v. Thomas
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • June 5, 1980
    ...court, to be erroneous as a matter of State law (Stokes v. People, 53 N.Y. 164, 179; People v. Baker, 96 N.Y. 340, 350; People v. Downs, 123 N.Y. 558, 564-568, 25 N.E. 988; People v. Flack, 125 N.Y. 324, 335, 26 N.E. 267; People v. Weiss, 290 N.Y. 160, 171, 48 N.E.2d 306). Thus the defendan......
  • Sparf v. United States, No. 613
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 21, 1895
    ...v. U. S., 97 U. S. 237, 266. See, also, Potter v. U. S., 155 U. S. 438, 15 Sup. Ct. 144; Com. v. McKie, 1 Gray, 61; People v. Downs, 123 N. Y. 558, 25 N. E. 988. Upon the trial of an indictment under a statute of the territory of Utah, establishing two degrees of murder, with different puni......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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