People v. Higgins

Decision Date02 July 1901
Citation86 N.W. 812,127 Mich. 291
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Error to circuit court, Lenawee county; Guy M. Chester, Judge.

John M Higgins was convicted of murder, and brings error. Affirmed.

Westerman & Westerman, for appellant.

J. N Sampson, Pros. Atty. (John E. Bird, of counsel), for the People.


On the night of April 17, 1897, a Dr. Ladd, of Adrian, was shot and killed by a burglar, who was detected by him in his residence. The respondent was convicted of murder in the first degree, and the cause is before us on error.

An outline of the testimony tending to show his guilt is as follows: Col. Avery, the supervisor of the First ward of the city in which the Ladd residence was situated, saw him near the residence, when he went, on April 16th, to take Ladd's assessment. Jennie King identified him as one who visited her at her home in Adrian the afternoon before the homicide. She stated that he left there towards evening. Edward O'Hearn, an old prison acquaintance, saw him soon after, and walked with him to the corners near Ladd's house, about 7 p. m., which was about dusk. He states that they were personal friends, and he asked him what he was there for, and he said 'for business.' He stated that he had spent the afternoon in a sporting house. They had some talk about Emma Lesh's place, and started along. When opposite the Ladd place, he asked who lived there, and whether he was rich or poor. O'Hearn gave him directions to Emma Lesh's place, and he remarked that he would go down there, and see what he could do, and that, if he could not make a raise down there the other place would be an easy mark. Witness supposed he referred to Dr. Ladd's place. During the walk he showed the witness a sectional jimmy. The window at Ladd's was entered by means of a jimmy. Mrs. English, a resident of Adrian, saw O'Hearn talking with a stranger near the Ladd residence at the time stated. Bessie De Witt, an inmate of Emma Lesh's place testified that he came there between 7 and 8 p. m. of the night Ladd was killed, and stayed until near 2 o'clock in the morning. He was assigned a room in the house. He had some talk with her about robbing Emma Lesh. About 2 o'clock witness heard him going towards Mrs. Lesh's room, and got up. She made a noise, and he ran out of the house. Ladd was killed in the early morning before daylight. The theory of the prosecution was that, after shooting Ladd, he went south to the cemetery, and through it to a highway called the 'Treat Road,' thence via that road to the Ohio line, and from there directly south to Delta, Ohio, where he took the Air Line Railroad train to the city of Toledo. George A. Williams saw him on the Treat road, about six miles from Adrian, between 5 and 6 in the morning of April 17th, hurrying south, and looking back 'all the while.' He asked the distance and way to Delta, Ohio. Several farmers along the road saw him, and identified him by peculiar clothing which he wore. O'Hearn testified that a week or 10 days after he saw him at Adrian he received a letter from him to meet him at Air Line Junction, and that he rode down there on a night train, back of the engine. When he met him, respondent asked him what was said about the Ladd affair at Adrian. The witness told him that nothing was said concerning him, and he replied that, 'if ever they find out who did that job, or croaked that old duck, it would be me that would tell them.' He also talked about his being at Emma Lesh's that evening, and that he had a hard time going across the country to the Ohio town, and that he had a hard time making Toledo. Respondent told witness to let him know if he heard anything, and gave him a five-dollar bill to pay his expenses. He told him to address him 'Dr. John Higgins, Toledo, Ohio, General Delivery,' and said 'he could fix an alibi--prove an alibi--in Toledo.' A 32-caliber revolver was found on respondent's person when he was arrested, and a ball of that size was taken from the body of Dr. Ladd. The defendant was arrested at Toledo for another offense, and this arrest led to the suspicion that respondent was the man who shot Dr. Ladd.

The defendant's counsel claim that the testimony was insufficient to justify the submission of the case to the jury, and that the court should have directed an acquittal. We are of the opinion that the evidence, though circumstantial, was sufficient to support a verdict of guilty. A witness named O'Brien testified that he was a detective in the employ of the city of Toledo, and, in company with one Carew, went to the house where respondent lived for a man of a given description, who was suspected of a burglary of silverware in Toledo. As they approached the respondent, who stood on the porch bareheaded, they recognized him as the man they wanted. When he saw them, he went into the house. Witness went around the house and saw respondent escaping...

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