People v. Randall, Docket Nos. 12511--12514

Decision Date26 July 1972
Docket NumberDocket Nos. 12511--12514,No. 2,2
Citation42 Mich.App. 187,201 N.W.2d 292
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Robert G. RANDALL and Gary Van Hooser, Defendants-Appellees
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Robert A. Derengoski, Sol. Gen., Thomas G. Plunkett, Pros. Atty., for plaintiff-appellant.

Douglas A. Chartrand, Pontiac, Eric J. McCann, Bloomfield Hills, for defendants-appellees.


DANHOF, Judge.

The defendants, who were both Oakland County Deputy Sheriffs, were charged with receiving or concealing stolen property. M.C.L.A. § 750.535; M.S.A. § 28.803. A preliminary examination was held and the defendants were bound over to the Circuit Court. The defendants moved to quash the informations and the Circuit Court granted the motions. We reverse and remand for trial.

We have 4 cases that were consolidated for purposes of preliminary examination by stipulation of all parties. In 2 of the cases defendant Randall is charged with receiving or concealing stolen property. In the other 2 cases defendant Van Hooser is charged with the same offense.

At the preliminary examination transcribed statements by each of the defendants were admitted into evidence. Also police officers were allowed to testify regarding statements made by the defendants before the more formal transcribed statements were made. On appeal the principal contention is that the Corpus delicti was not established by evidence other than the defendants' statements and thus, the district court erred in binding the defendants over to circuit court.

Both defendants appear to proceed on the erroneous assumption that in establishing the Corpus delicti it was incumbent upon the prosecutor to show as part of the Corpus delicti that defendants had knowledge that the property was stolen. In our view this is not the law. There is no requirement that the Corpus delicti be proven as to a particular defendant.

As Wigmore explains, 3 definitions of the term Corpus delicti have been used. First, it means simply the fact of the specific loss or injury. Second, it must also include someone's criminality. This second definition prevails in this State. People v. Kirby, 223 Mich. 440, 194 N.W. 142 (1923). Wigmore describes the third definition as follows, Wigmore on Evidence, (3d ed) § 2072, p. 402:

'A third view, indeed, too absurd to be argued with, has occasionally been advanced, at least by counsel, namely, that the Corpus delicti includes the third element also, i.e. the Accused's identity or agency as the criminal. By this view, the term Corpus delicti would be synonymous with the whole of the charge, and the rule would require that the whole be evidenced in all three elements independently of the confession, which would be absurd.'

Of course there are many cases where the distinction is of little importance. Many times the fact of someone's criminal activity and the fact of the defendant's activity will be proven at the same time. It is an A fortiori proposition that when the defendant's criminality has been shown someone's criminality has been shown. However, in some cases the distinction is important and should be remembered.

It is well-accepted that the Corpus delicti must be established by evidence other than a confession of the accused. It is also well-accepted that this rule applies to a preliminary examination. People v. Asta, 337 Mich. 590, 60 N.W.2d 472 (1953), People v. Reid, 295 Mich. 572, 295 N.W. 317 (1940), People v. White, 276 Mich. 29, 267 N.W. 777 (1936), Peterson v. Oceana Circuit Judge, 243 Mich. 215, 219 N.W. 934 (1928). Furthermore, in most crimes the prosecutor must show that the crime charged has been committed, or stated differently, he must show all of the elements of the offense. 1 People v. Barron, 381 Mich. 421, 163 N.W.2d 219 (1968), People v. Kelsch, 16 Mich.App. 244, 167 N.W.2d 777 (1969). An exception is when the crime is murder. People v. Allen, 39 Mich.App. 483, 197 N.W.2d 874 (1972).

There are several reason for requiring that the Corpus delicti of a crime be established without resort to a defendant's extrajudicial admissions. Some of these are a judicial distrust of confessions, a desire to avoid convicting a man of a crime that has not been committed, and perhaps a feeling that it is not sporting to convict a man solely out of his mouth. An objection based solely on hearsay is, of course, overcome by the fact that they are admissions.

There are several types of statements which while classified as admissions are nonetheless admissible to establish the Corpus delicti. A statement which itself is an element of the offense may be admitted. People v. Lay, 336 Mich. 77, 57 N.W.2d 453 (1953). Excited utterances are admissible. A statement of a presently existing state of mind made shortly before the crime is committed is admissible to prove the crime. People v. Potter, 5 Mich. 1 (1858). In general, admissions made before the crime was committed are admissible to prove the Corpus delicti. Warszower v. United States, 312 U.S. 342; 61 S.Ct. 603; 85 L.Ed. 876 (1941). A statement made roughtly contemporaneously with the crime even if shortly after may be admitted to prove the Corpus delicti. People v. Quimby, 134 Mich. 625, 96 N.W. 1061 (1903).

When a defendant's statement is not simply an admission, but also falls within another exception to the hearsay rule, which gives an additional indication of truth, the statement is admissible to prove the Corpus delicti. Older cases allowed these statements as part of the Res gestae. People v. McGarry, 136 Mich. 316, 99 N.W. 147 (1904), People v. Potter, Supra, People v. Quimby, Supra. Today we would analyze them under the more specific analysis advocated by Professor Wigmore. See People v. Jones, 38 Mich.App. 512, 515--516, 196 N.W.2d 817 (1972) where we said:

'The term 'res gestae' has been used to justify the admission of testimony which would otherwise be inadmissible as hearsay. Examples of the types of statements which have been called Res gestae are (1) declarations of present bodily condition, (2) declarations of present mental states and emotions, (3) excited utterances, and (4) declarations of present sense impressions. The term 'res gestae' has also been used to describe statements that are not hearsay and this fact illustrates the indiscriminate coverage of the term.'

The policy of the rule requiring proof of the Corpus delicti by proof other than a confession is not offended by admitting statements which fall within 2 exceptions to the hearsay rule. This is sufficient indication of the truth to overcome any reluctance to convict on the basis of a confession. A rule that was created for the salutary purpose of doing justice should not be construed in a manner that makes it merely an escape hatch for the guilty.

Some of the defendants...

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24 cases
  • People v. Wise
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • July 12, 1984
    ...identity is not an element of the corpus delicti, People v. Harris, 64 Mich.App. 503, 236 N.W.2d 118 (1975); People v. Randall, 42 Mich.App. 187, 201 N.W.2d 292 (1972), this testimony clearly sufficiently established the corpus delicti for the two armed robbery Whether or not the corpus del......
  • People v. Stewart
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • June 4, 1976
    ...establish the corpus delicti. See Warszower v. United States, 312 U.S. 342, 61 S.Ct. 603, 85 L.Ed. 876 (1941); People v. Randall, 42 Mich.App. 187, 190--191, 201 N.W.2d 292 (1972); People v. McKinney, 65 Mich.App. 131, 237 N.W.2d 215 (1975).16 '* * * before the declarations of one conspirat......
  • People v. Burton
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • August 25, 1989
    ...also the corpus delicti, was established by independent circumstantial evidence. The prosecutor next suggests that People v. Randall, 42 Mich.App. 187, 201 N.W.2d 292 (1972), and People v. Meyer, 46 Mich.App. 357, 208 N.W.2d 230 (1973), establish that "an excited utterance may be used to pr......
  • People v. Williams
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • September 4, 1985
    ...(1979); People v. McKinney, 65 Mich.App. 131, 137-139, 237 N.W.2d 215 (1975), lv. den. 397 Mich 809 (1976); People v. Randall, 42 Mich.App. 187, 190-191, 201 N.W.2d 292 (1972).The limitation of the corpus delicti rule to confessions has been labeled a minority position, Oliver, supra, 111 M......
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