People v. Trybus

Citation113 N.E. 538,219 N.Y. 18
Decision Date11 July 1916
CourtNew York Court of Appeals


Appeal from Supreme Court, Trial Term, Genesee County.

Jan Trybus was convicted of murder in the first degree, and appeals. Affirmed.Bayard J. Stedman, of Batavia (A. J. Waterman and F. H. Dunham, both of Batavia, of counsel), for appellant.

William H. Coon, Dist. Atty., of Batavia, for the People.


[1] Defendant has been convicted of the crime of murder in the first degree. At 4 o'clock on the morning of October 17, 1915, Jacob Schoenberg was sleeping in his bed in his home in Batavia, with his son Max, a high school boy 16 years of age, when the room was entered from outside the house through the window by a man who beat out Schoenberg's brains with an iron bar. Max was roused by the blow, saw a man in the room, and called for help. The man told him to shut up, demanded money, and threatened to shoot him. On the trial Max positively identified the defendant as the man he saw in the room. The identification was based largely on defendant's manner of speech. The weight of this evidence was for the jury, and it is not incredible as matter of law. The guilt of the defendant was, therefore, fully established. It is claimed, however, that by reason of errors committed on the trial the judgment of conviction should be reversed; that confessions were obtained from defendant under the influence of fear, induced by threats or stipulations not to prosecute for murder in the first degree, and introduced in evidence contrary to the provisions of section 395 of the Code of Criminal Procedure; and that the district attorney improperly commented on the failure of defendant to testify in his own behalf on the merits of the case, contrary to the provisions of section 393 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. If such errors were committed, and if defendant's right to a fair trial was thereby substantially affected, it is the duty of this court to reverse the judgment of conviction.

The district attorney employed Thomas O'Grady, a private detective, to investigate the circumstances attending the death of Schoenberg, and as a result of his investigation defendant was, to use the euphonious parlance of the detectives, ‘taken into custody’ by one of O'Grady's men on October 29. O'Grady, when defendant was thereupon brought to his office in Buffalo, according to O'Grady's own version of the transaction, ‘grabbed him quick around the neck and shoved him against the radiator and searched him.’ Then O'Grady held him as his private captive, but locked him up in a police station in Buffalo when he was not in O'Grady's personal charge until he was brought to Batavia. The following evening defendant in O'Grady's office made a statement, which he wrote out himself, in which he said that he was drunk on the night of the murder; that he walked to the house of deceased, took the window out, found an iron bar, went into the house, hit the man on the head once or twice, heard the boy call for help, demanded money, and jumped out through the window. O'Grady and the detectives swear that the statement was obtained without threats or promises. Defendant's claim is that they told him that if he did not make a statement they would have him sent up for life on another charge as an habitual criminal, but if he made the statement they would get him off with a sentence of 20 years. Defendant made another statement in O'Grady's office November 1, and a third statement on the same day to the district attorney of Genesee county. These statements were taken stenographically and transcribed on the typewriter. He was then brought to Batavia and arraigned on November 2, and for the first time advised as to his right to counsel. He waived examination and was held to await the action of the grand jury. On November 4 he made a still further statement in his own handwriting, and on November 5 he made to the district attorney a fifth statement. When he made them he was confined in the police station in the city of Batavia. All these statements describe with circumstance the killing of Schoenberg by defendant. In addition, defendant made oral statements, particularly on November 3, when at the Batavia police station he told the daughters of deceased that he was sorry that he had murdered their father.

[2] The conduct of a detective in needlessly laying hands on a helpless man detained by him without legal warrant deserves the severest censure. The practice of detectives to take in custody and hold in durance persons merely suspected of crime, in order to obtain statements from them before formal complaint and arraignment, and before they can see friends and counsel, is without legal sanction. The question is not, however, whether the detective struck defendant or held him illegally in custody. Neither of these facts, per se, makes the reception of the statements in evidence illegal as matter of law (Balbo v. People, 80 N. Y. 484), although they are properly to be considered by the jury in determining the voluntariness of the statements.

[3] The question is whether defendant, voluntarily, not under the influence of fear induced by threats, or under a stipulation of the district attorney not to prosecute (Code Cr. Proc. § 395), made the statements. Aside from the rough handling and the illegal custody, which are not denied, there is no uncontradicted evidence of threats or promises made to defendant, or of hope or fear induced thereby, and there is nothing to connect the district attorney with any proposition to mitigate the punishment if a confession were made. In the third statement, made to the district attorney, defendant was fully advised that he was accused of the...

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  • Stein v. People of State of New York Wissner v. People of State of New York Cooper v. People of State of New York
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 15 June 1953
    ......We do not agree with their construction of the charge, and the fact that no objection was made to it indicates that they did not so construe it at the time it was made. In any event, failure to object made the matter unavailable here. . 18. N.Y.Code Crim.Proc. § 465. 19. See People v. Trybus, 219 N.Y. 18, 113 N.E. 538. . 20. As was done, without success, in Witt v. United States, 9 Cir., 196 F.2d 285. In Witt, the defendant had testified in the absence of the jury—as he could under federal procedure—as to the voluntariness of a confession. After the court had determined that it ......
  • State v. Nagle, 30588.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 15 November 1930
    ......Powell, 266 Mo. 100: State v. Thomas, 250 Mo. 189; Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532. 18 Sup. Ct. 183, 42 L. Ed. 568; 17 C.J. 720; People v. Trybus, 219 N.Y. 18; Hector v. State, 2 Mo. 166, 22 Am. Dec. 454; 12 Cyc. 475; State v. Brown, 73 Mo. 631; State v. Condit (Mo.), 270 S.W. 286; ......
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    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
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    ......Powell, 266 Mo. 100; State v. Thomas, 250 Mo. 189; Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 18 S.Ct. 183, 42 L.Ed. 568;. 17 C. J. 720; People v. Trybus, 219 N.Y. 18;. Hector v. State, 2 Mo. 166, 22 Am. Dec. 454; 12 Cyc. 475; State v. Brown, 73 Mo. 631; State v. Condit. (Mo.), 270 ......
  • State v. Aitkens
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    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 3 April 1944
    ......239, 167 S.W. 559; State v. Powell, 266 Mo. 100; State v. Meyer, 238 S.W. 457; 16 C.J. 718, sec. 1468; 22 C.J.S. 1433, sec. 817; People v. Trybus, 113 N.E. 538, 219. N.Y. 18; People v. Klyczek, 138 N.E. 275, 307 Ill. 150; Williams v. State, 86 P.2d 1015; People v. Vinci, 129 ......
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