People v. Les

Decision Date04 June 1934
Docket NumberMotion No. 306.
Citation267 Mich. 648,255 N.W. 407
PartiesPEOPLE v. LES.
CourtMichigan Supreme Court


Appeal from Recorder's Court of Detroit; Edward J. Jeffries, Judge.

Proceedings by the People against Eugene entering a dwelling house in the nighttime entering a dewlling house in the nighttime with intent to commit larceny. From an order quashing the information and ordering defendant's discharge, the People appeal.

Reversed, with directions.

Argued before the Entire Bench.Patrick H. O'Brien, Atty. Gen., and Harry S. Toy, Pros. Atty., and Howard Bowman and Edmund E. Shepherd, Asst. Pros. Attys., all of Detroit, for the People.

George C. Parzen, of Detroit (Harry S. Bennett, of Detroit, of counsel), for appellee.

BUSHNELL, Justice.

The precise question presented by this appeal is one of first impression in this state.

The defendant, after examination in the recorder's court of the city of Detroit, was arraigned on an information charging him with breaking and entering a dwelling house in the nighttime, with intent to commit a larceny therein. The information is laid under sections 110 and 360 of the Michigan Penal Code (Act No. 328 of the Public Acts of 1931), and contains a larceny count. Subsequently, a motion to quash the information was heard. Counsel for the state admitted that, to establish probable cause, they relied solely upon (1) proof that the crime charged in the information was committed (the corpus delicti), and (2) proof that a palm print of defendant's right hand was found on the sill of the rear bedroom window through which the offender effected an entrance, such discovery having been made by a police officer and finger print expert within twelve hours of the commission of the offense. The premises had been isolated during the interim.

The defendant contended that (1) such proofs were insufficient to make such a showing of probable cause as would justify binding defendant over for trial; (2) that Act No. 197 of the Public Acts of 1931, providing for the taking of finger prints in case of arrest for felony, did not justify the officers in taking defendant's palm prints after his arrest on general suspicion; and (3) that in so doing the officers violated defendant's rights and compelled him to incriminate himself against his will, in violation of article 2, § 16, of the Constitution of this state. The court ruled that the evidence was insufficient to hold the defendant for trial, quashed the information, and ordered the discharge of the defendant. We granted leave to appeal from the order, and directed that the cause be heard as a motion.

The exhibits attached to the record include a photograph of a portion of a human palm print, found on the windowsill of the premises in question, marked Exhibit 1 and hereafter referred to as the ‘latent print,’ and a photograph of a print of the right palm of the defendant, marked Exhibit 2, and hereafter referred to as the ‘actual print.’ These prints are both marked in fifteen different places, each of which is claimed to reveal an identical characteristic.

The prints are read in this manner: An identical characteristic is located on both prints, and marked No. 1, it being in this case a dot. No. 2 identical characteristic is a point at the end of a line, separated on both prints from No. 1 by one intervening line. No. 3 is the end of a line separated from 2 on both prints by two lines. No. 4 is another end of a line separated from 2 on both prints by two lines. No. 4 is another end of a line separated from 3 by three lines on both prints, while Nos. 5 and 6 are two dots found on both prints between 4 and the next line. No. 7 is the end of a line separated from 6 by six unbroken lines, and so on clockwise around both prints until 15 identical characteristics have been read, located in the same position on each. The general similarity of the latent and actual prints is obvious to one who has never before read a print.

There seems to be little or no difference between the methods employed in the reading of palm prints and finger prints. It is true that palm prints are not used as extensively as finger prints and are not generally tabulated. The authorities on the subject are agreed, however, that the same types of peculiarities exist in the palms and feet as in the fingers. The permanent nature and individuality of the finger print was first put forward in a scientific manner by J. E. Purkinje, an eminent professor of physiology, in a paper read before the University of Breslau in 1823. He adduced nine standard types of impressions, and advocated a system of classification which attracted no great attention. Sir Francis Galton later did much to advance the use of the science, and to-day it is an accepted and well-recognized aid, not only in the identification of criminals, but for many other purposes. Sound authority declares that finger prints are reliable as a means of identification. See 10 Ency. Britannica (14th Ed.) 249. The finger prints of millions of men in the service during the late war were taken and proved invaluable in many instances. In India, finger prints have long been used to prevent false impersonation and to fix the identity of those who execute documents. C. Ainsworth Mitchell in ‘Science and the Criminal,’ p. 51 (1911). Their use is well known in connection with the postal savings system, and foot prints have become an accepted means of identifying newborn babies in the obstetrical wards of hospitals.

We have passed upon the propriety of permitting an experiment in finger printing before a jury, in People v. Chimovitz, 237 Mich. 247, 211 N. W. 650, holding it to be within the sound discretion of the court. The experiment was designed to indicate to the jury the accuracy of such evidence, the admissibility of which does not seem to have been questioned. Practically all the decisions in which the question has been considered have held that evidence as to the correspondence of finger prints is admissible to prove identity. See Powell v. State, 50 Tex. Cr. R. 592, 99 S. W. 1005;Brown v. State, 76 Tex. Cr. R. 316, 174 S. W. 360; and State v. Miller, 71 N. J. Law, 527, 60 A. 202. See, also, cases collected in 3 A. L. R. 1706, 16 A. L. R. 370, and 63 A. L. R. 1324.

The case of first impression upon the question whether evidence as to the identity of palm print impressions is admissible, as tending to connect the accused with the commission of the crime, is State v. Kuhl, 42 Nev. 185, 175 P. 190, 3 A. L. R. 1694. There Chief Justice McCarran traced the history of the science and quoted liberally from the authorities, referring to the leading finger print cases in this country. People v. Jennings, 252 Ill. 534, 96 N. E. 1077,43 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1206;People v. Roach, 215 N. Y. 602, 109 N. E. 618, Ann. Cas. 1917A, 410;Young v. State, 68 Ala. 569; and People v. Storrs, 207 N. Y. 147, 100 N. E. 730,45 L. R. A. (N. S.) 860, Ann. Cas. 1914C, 196. The learned discussion in the Kuhl Case is ample authority for a holding that palm prints are just as valuable and accurate as finger prints. The evidence of experts as to the identity of latent and actual palm prints is a proper subject for the consideration of a jury, and the weight to be given such testimony is for the jury to determine. Further, such evidence may be a sufficient showing of probable cause.

Does Act No. 197 of the Public Acts of 1931 justify police officers in taking the palm prints of one arrested on suspicion? This act imposes upon police officers the duty to take finger prints upon an arrest for a felony, and is not a limitation upon their lawful actions in the detection and apprehension of criminals. We do not understand that it is claimed that the defendant's palm prints were taken under the authority of this act.

Was the taking of defendant's palm print a violation of his constitutional rights? In Moon v. State, 22 Ariz. 418, 198 P. 288, 16 A. L. R. 362, it was held that a constitutional prohibition against self-incrimination was not violated by the introduction in evidence of photographs of finger print impressions which defendant voluntarily suffered to be taken.

‘The prohibition of compelling a man in a criminal court to be a witness against himself is a prohibition of the use of physical or moral compulsion to extort...

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  • State ex rel. Reed v. Harris
    • United States
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    ...67; Shaffer v. United States, 24 App. (D. C.) 417, writ of certiorari denied in 196 U.S. 639, 49 L.Ed. 631, 25 S.Ct. 795; People v. Les, 267 Mich. 648, 255 N.W. 407; People v. Sallow, 100 Misc. 447, 165 N.Y.S. United States v. Cross, 20 D. C. 365; Owensby v. Morris, 79 S.W.2d 934, 83 A. L. ......
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    ...111 Md. 53, 73 A. 653, 23 L.R.A. (N.S.) 739, 134 Am. St. Rep 586; Bartletta v. McFeeley, 107 N.J. Eq. 141, 152 A. 17; People v. Les, 267 Mich. 648, 255 N.W. 407, and authorities therein cited; Connors v. State, 134 Tex. Crim. Rep. 278, 115 S.W. (2d) 681. For other instances, see 8 Wigmore, ......
  • State ex rel. Reed v. Harris
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    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • August 14, 1941
    ...67; Shaffer v. United States, 24 App. (D.C.) 417, writ of certiorari denied in 196 U.S. 639, 49 L. Ed. 631, 25 S. Ct. 795; People v. Les, 267 Mich. 648, 255 N.W. 407; People v. Sallow, 100 Misc. 447, 165 N.Y. Supp. 915; United States v. Cross, 20 D.C. 365; Owensby v. Morris, 79 S.W. (2d) 93......
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