People v. Sexton

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtWERNER
Citation187 N.Y. 495,80 N.E. 396
Decision Date26 February 1907

187 N.Y. 495
80 N.E. 396


Court of Appeals of New York.

Feb. 26, 1907.

Appeal from Supreme Court, Trial Term, Ontario County.

Edward Sexton was convicted of murder in the first degree, and he appeals. Affirmed.

See 86 N. Y. Supp. 517,42 Misc. Rep. 312; 88 N. Y. Supp. 1112,94 App. Div. 614.

[187 N.Y. 496]Royal R. Scott, for appellant.

187 N.Y. 497]Robert F. Thompson, Dist. Atty., for the People.

On the 23d day of June, 1903, the dead body of Thomas Mahaney, Jr., was found in a field which was part of a small farm occupied by him, his wife and their children, in the town of Farmington, in the county of Ontario. The deceased had plainly been killed by some person armed with a shotgun loaded with No. 6 shot, for in his left temple there [187 N.Y. 498]was a large wound filled with shot of that size, surrounded ever a circumference of about 2 1/2 inches with somewhat scattered perforations caused by the same kind of missiles, many of which had passed through the temporal bone and penetrated the brain. Suspicion pointed to the defendant as the perpetrator of the foul deed. He was arrested and indicted upon the charge of murder in the first degree. His trial and conviction followed, and he has now appealed to this court.

The case of the prosecution rests wholly upon circumstantial evidence, in which the element of motive is an important factor. The principal question we have to consider is whether the circumstances arrayed against the defendant form so complete and strong a chain of evidence as to exclude beyond a reasonable doubt every hypothesis save that

[80 N.E. 397

of his guilt. As that necessitates a recital of the essential features of the evidence submitted to the jury, it may conduce to clearness and brevity of statement if we begin the narrative with the earliest mention of the relations of the decedent and the defendant toward each other, and then continue it chronologically down to its tragic ending. The story begins at a period preceding the year 1895 when the decedent, then a youth of 18, resided with his parents on a small place near the scene of the homicide, and the defendant and his wife and children lived on the premises which they occupied at the time when the defendant was charged with the commission of this crime. We are not informed as to the character or extent of the relations between these two men at that early period, beyond what may be inferred from their proximity of residence in a rural community. In 1894 the defendant had been convicted of some criminal offense for which he had been sentenced to serve a term of one year in the penitentiary. Upon his release from incarceration at some time in 1895 he returned to his home, and soon thereafter was again arrested at the instance of his wife upon the charge of assault. At the trial upon that charge, which took place before a justice of the peace and a jury, the defendant conducted his own defense, and sought to [187 N.Y. 499]justify or palliate the alleged offense with the countercharge that, during his previous incarceration, his wife had been guilty of criminal intimacy with young Mahaney, the deceased, with the result that she was then pregnant, and to prove his assertion, he compelled her to rise in the presence of the jury and pointed out her condition. In conversation with one Rush, a farmer by whom the defendant was employed at that time or soon thereafter, the latter told the former that ‘when he came out of the workhouse his wife admitted to him that she was in a family way, and Thomas Mahaney was the father of the child, and he said he was going to kill him, if he didn't kill him within 10 years.’ At about that time the defendant also told one Rogers that the deceased was responsible for his wife's condition; that he had been running everywhere with her during THE DEFENDANT'S ABSENCE, AND THAT HE WOULD ‘SHOOT THE S_____ OF A B_____.’ in the apring of 1898 the defendant applied to McLouth, the justice, for a peace warrant against the deceased, stating that the latter ‘abused him and wouldn't allow him to go in the road; that when he went anywhere he had to go cross-lots. He didn't dare go in the road. He was afraid of him.’ Later in the same year the defendant was arrested for an alleged assault upon one Morris Mahaney. At that time he stated to the same justice of the peace ‘that Tom [the deceased] was the cause of all that trouble’; that he had sent Morris over to the defendant's place to break the windows so that the defendant would commit an assault upon Morris, and then be arrested for it. In January, 1900, the deceased was married to Mary Shea. The young couple at once took up their abode in the city of Rochester and remained away from Farmington until the fall of 1902, when they returned to reside upon the place where the deceased met his death. The record is silent as to this interval of about four years, until the deceased and his wife were about to return to Farmington in October, 1902, when the defendant had a conversation with one Ebert in the fruit evaporating establishment of one Johnson. Ebert stated that it was reported that the deceased was about to return to [187 N.Y. 500]Farmington, when the defendant said, ‘By God, if he comes back there I will put him out of the way,’ to which Ebert replied, ‘You had better keep your hands off from Tom, he's a pretty good man,’ and the defendant rejoined by saying, ‘I don't intend to put my hands on him to put him out of the way.’ About a month before the deceased and his wife went back to Farmington, the elder Mahaney, father of the deceased, had a talk with the defendant. The latter said, ‘I hear Tom is coming back to live in the neighborhood. You tell Tom by God Almighty, if he ever comes to that street again, he won't last but a little while; and you be sure and tell it to him.’ The deceased and his wife returned to Farmington and took up their abode on the place where the former met his death. After they had lived there about four weeks, the latter heard the defendant talking in the road. It was near midnight and was dark, so that she could not see him, but she knew his voice. She heard him say: ‘Mahaney I will lay for you. I will serve 20 years for you. You're before me,’ or that in substance. At about this time the defendant went one evening to the house of Mrs. Mahaney, the mother of the deceased. He was intoxicated, and, referring to the circumstance that the deceased had been a witness against him upon his trial for assault upon Morris Mahaney, he said he would ‘meet him some day for what he had done.’ Then there was an occasion when the defendant had a conversation at his home with one Nicholson, in which the former is quoted as saying that he would ‘take the liver and heart out of that man’ (referring to the deceased) ‘and whittle it away as easily as he could whittle the stick that he held in his hand.’ Substantially of the same purport was another conversation between the defendant and the Brodericks, husband and wife, in which the defendant is charged with saying: ‘Tom Mahaney is a perjurer, and he could take his knife and cut out his heart and chew it.’

Coming down to a period about 10 days before the homicide, the wife of the deceased testified: That the defendant came [187 N.Y. 501]home from town one night and his wife came out of the house to assist him in unhitching the horse. On that occasion she heard the defendant

[80 N.E. 398]

say ‘he had the ammunition to fix Mahaney now, and there were others he would fix with him; two or three others.’ That the defendant's wife spoke to him and told him to keep still, and he replied: ‘No, he wouldn't. He would fix him. He would shoot him.’ At about this same time the defendant, in a conversation with one Johnson, said that certain persons were meddling with his things and taking some of them, and he mentioned the names of Welch, John Mahaney, and the deceased, saying: ‘They will find some one dead here if this thing continues.’ A few days before the homicide the defendant, in a conversation with the Corneliuses, father and son, said to the latter: ‘You are afraid of Tom Mahaney,’ and, upon receiving a reply in the negative, he said: ‘I will do away with the black cuss. I will do away with the black s_____ of a b_____.’ We now pass to the consideration of the events of the fatal day. The defendant and his wife drove to Canandaigua. The time of their going and the duration of their stay is not definitely shown. They seem to have been there as late as between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon; for Kelly, a saloonkeeper, says the defendant was at his place at that hour somewhat under the influence of liquor. Behrens and the two Corneliuses, who were at work in a gravel pit near the homes of the Mahaneys and the Sextons, saw the defendant and his wife driving homeward a few minutes after 4 o'clock. The defendant's wife testified that they reached their house at about 5 o'clock, and this statement is corroborated by the daughter Anna, who assisted in unhitching the horse.

Here we pause to take up the movements of the deceased as disclosed by the record. He had been at work earlier in the day ‘drilling in’ beans for farmer Edmonston, and returned home about 3 o'clock, bringing with him the latter's drill and drag and his own team. He started at once to ‘drag’ a field that lay westerly from his house, leaving the drill at the barn. Having finished his ‘dragging,’ the [187 N.Y. 502]deceased returned to the house where his wife had been picking over beans that were to be ‘drilled’ into the ground that had been prepared for them. He partook of a lunch, changed some of his outer clothing, hitched his team to the ‘drill’ which had been filled with beans brought from Edmoston's, and then went back to the field, beginning to drill in the southwesterly corner where the westerly line, which separates the premises of the deceased from those of the defendant, runs on an angle that required the ‘drilling’...

To continue reading

Request your trial
55 cases
  • People v. Pelchat
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • 15 Mayo 1984
    ......760). Thus we have held a defendant has a procedural right to challenge an indictment founded upon inadequate or improper evidence which is of constitutional dimension (Matter . Page 84. of Jaffe v. Scheinman, 47 N.Y.2d 188, 194, 417 N.Y.S.2d 241, 390 N.E.2d 1165; People v. Sexton, 187 N.Y. 495, 511-512, 80 N.E. 396).         Indictments are presumed to be valid (People v. Bergerson, 17 N.Y.2d 398, 402, 271 N.Y.S.2d 236, 218 N.E.2d 288; People v. Howell, 3 N.Y.2d 672, 675, 171 N.Y.S.2d 801; People v. Sexton, supra ), and they are rarely open to attack on grounds of ......
  • People v. Utley
    • United States
    • New York County Court
    • 25 Febrero 1974
    ....... I. AS TO INSPECTION AND DISMISSAL .         An indictment is presumptively based on legal and sufficient evidence, and this presumption continues until there is satisfactory[77 Misc.2d 88] proof to the contrary (People v. Sexton, 187 N.Y. 495, 80 N.E. 396; People v. Howell, 3 N.Y.2d 672, 171 N.Y.S.2d 801, 148 N.E.2d 867; People v. Bergerson, 17 N.Y.2d 398, 271 N.Y.S.2d 236, 218 N.E.2d 288). This presumption is generally overcome only by sworn allegations of fact set forth in moving papers. Surmise, conjecture or ......
  • Proskin v. County Court of Albany County
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • 10 Febrero 1972
    ......Court of Gen. Sessions, 296 N.Y. 1, 8, 68 N.E.2d 849; People ex rel. Lemon v. Supreme Ct., 245 N.Y. 24, 35, 156 N.E. 84). In this court's most recent elaboration of the applicable principles it was said: ...Lemon v. Supreme Ct., 245 N.Y. 24, 31, 156 N.E. 84, Supra; see, also, People v. Sexton, 187 N.Y. 495, 510--511, 80 N.E. 396). The power, however, to compel disclosure of Grand Jury deliberations was carefully difined and limited solely ......
  • People v. Howell
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • 22 Enero 1957
    ...... People v. Nitzberg, 289 N.Y. 523, 47 N.E.2d 37, 145 A.L.R. 482; People v. Sweeney, 213 N.Y. 37, 106 N.E. 913; People v. Glen, 173 N.Y. 395, 66 N.E. 112; People v. Sexton, 187 N.Y. 495, 80 N.E. 396; People v. Van Allen, 275 App.Div. 181, 89 N.Y.S.2d 594. Moreover, it is noted that a motion to inspect grand jury minutes, as distinguished from the principal motion to dismiss the indictment for evidentiary insufficiency, is not appealable. Matter of Montgomery, 126 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT