People v. Goodrode

Decision Date30 March 1903
Citation132 Mich. 542,94 N.W. 14
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Exceptions from Circuit Court, Van Buren County; John R. Carr, Judge.

Nelson R. Goodrode was convicted of polygamy, and brings exceptions. Judgment reversed.

Horace M. Oren, Atty. Gen., and David Anderson Pros. Atty., for the people.

Hammond Hammond & Donovan, for defendant.


The information in this case charges the respondent with polygamy; that on the 24th day of March, 1892, and in the county of Fulton, state of Ohio, he married one Anna Carpenter; and on the 20th day of July, 1896, he married one Agnes Cleary, not having at that time obtained a divorce from Anna Carpenter. A trial was had, and the respondent was found guilty.

Error was assigned upon the admission of testimony introduced for the purpose of proving the marriage of March 24, 1892. The testimony of Mr. Bloomer, based upon what the judge of probate told him, was improperly admitted. It was hearsay but, inasmuch as the testimony of the respondent and of Anna Carpenter showed the performance of a marriage ceremony between them on or about March 24, 1892, followed by their living together as husband and wife, we think a valid marriage was shown (see People v. Lambert, 5 Mich. 366, 72 Am. Dec. 49; People v. Calder, 30 Mich. 85; Hutchins v. Kimmell, 31 Mich. 126, 18 Am Rep. 164; People v. Girdler, 65 Mich. 70, 31 N.W. 624; People v. Perriman, 72 Mich. 184, 40 N.W. 425; People v. Imes, 110 Mich. 250, 68 N.W. 157), and the error was not prejudicial.

It was the claim of the respondent that when he married Agnes Cleary in 1896 he supposed the woman he married in March, 1892, was dead, and that there was no legal impediment to his marriage, and did not learn there was until 1900, when he at once filed a bill for divorce from Anna Carpenter, and obtained a decree of divorce. It is also his claim that when he married Anna Carpenter she then had a lawful husband living. The record discloses this woman had been married three or four times before the marriage ceremony in Ohio in 1892. Prior to 1886 she was reputed to have married one Vanlin. Upon the trial the people introduced as a witness Mr. Williams. He testified upon cross-examination that he married Angeline Carpenter in 1886 or 1887; that before then she had been married to one Fuller, that, supposing Fuller was dead, Mr. Williams married her; that he afterwards learned Fuller was alive; he advanced the money, and Mrs. Fuller obtained a divorce from Fuller; that at this time she was keeping house for Mr. Williams as his housekeeper, but not as his wife, and continued to do so for two or three months after the divorce; that, as he did not deem his marriage with her was legal, he never got a divorce from her. He also testified that afterwards he understood she married one William Miller at Saginaw, and still later married respondent. Anna Carpenter was sworn as a witness on the part of the respondent, who testified that before marrying Goodrode she married Miller in Saginaw, in the presence of witnesses, by a man who was represented as a minister, and she and Miller lived together, and were not divorced when she married Goodrode.

For the purpose of rebutting this testimony, the people were allowed, against the objection of the respondent, to introduce in evidence the following paper: 'State of Michigan, County of Saginaw--ss.: I, R. Crowfoot, County Clerk and Clerk of the Circuit Court, having a seal, do hereby certify that after diligent search of the records of marriages of said County, under my control, I am unable to find any record of a marriage between Wm. Miller and Anna or Angeline Carpenter, Fuller or Williams. Witness my hand and seal of the Court of Saginaw, this 9th day of April, 1902. [Signed] R. Crowfoot, County Clerk. [Seal of the Circuit Court of Saginaw County, Michigan.]'

As to this part of respondent's defense the court charged the jury, among other things: 'It is claimed by the respondent that his marriage to Anna Carpenter was void and illegal for the reason that she was at the time of said marriage the wife of one William Miller. I charge you that this claim is no defense to respondent, unless the evidence in the case shows this claimed marriage to William Miller to have been a legal one. If Anna Carpenter and William Miller merely went through a sham ceremony, then it was no marriage and would be no defense. Under the laws of this state in the solemnization of marriage no particular form is necessary except that the parties shall solemnly declare in the presence of the magistrate or minister and in the presence of the attending witnesses that they take each other as husband and wife, and in every case there must be at least two witnesses besides the magistrate or minister present at the ceremony. If any ceremony was performed at all between William Miller and Anna Carpenter, it appears from the testimony that but one witness was present, and it further appears that this marriage was performed, if at all, in Saginaw, and it appears from the certificate of the county clerk of Saginaw county that no record of such a marriage is found in that county. You are at liberty to consider this as testimony to show that the marriage claimed to have been had between William Miller and Anna Carpenter was not a valid marriage, and, if it was not a valid marriage, then it is no defense to respondent. Mr. Anderson: Now, if your honor please, there is one place in there that should be changed, where it says, 'It appears from the testimony that but one witness was present.' I think it would be an error to leave that little statement in, and would like to have that changed. The Court: Well, that statement on the prosecutor's statement is eliminated from this request.' Ag...

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