Reavis v. State

Decision Date03 March 1896
Citation44 P. 62,6 Wyo. 240
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Information filed in District Court April 10, 1895.

ERROR to the District Court for Laramie County, HON. RICHARD H SCOTT, Judge.

Melvin Reavis was prosecuted upon information for the crime of perjury. He was tried and convicted. He prosecuted error. The material facts are stated in the opinion.


E. W Mann and Charles F. Tew for plaintiff in error.

Hearsay does not derive its value solely from the credit to be given to the witness himself, but rests also on the veracity and competency of some other person. (9 Am. & Eng. Ency. L., 325; Shaw v. People, 5 N.Y.S. Ct., 444; Stockton v. Williams, 1 Doug., 570.) It is inadmissible generally to establish any fact which is capable of proof by witnesses who speak with knowledge (9 Am. & Eng. Ency. L., 326 and citations).

Admissions and confessions are admissible only against the parties making them. (Soudosky v. McGee, 7 J. J. Marsh, 266; Thompson v. Richards, 14 Mich. 179; Burnham v. Sweat, 16 N.H. 418; State v. Ah. Tom, 8 Nev., 213; Dan v. Brown, 4 Cow., 483; Lenhart v. Allen, 32 Pa. 312; Russ. on Crime, 9th Am. Ed., 370-421; Roscoe's Crim. Ev., 10th Ed., 53; Fife v. Com., 29 Pa. 429; State v. Fuller, 39 Vt. 74; State v. Dodson, 16 S. C., 453; State v. Workman, 15 id., 541; Blackman v. State, 36 Ala. 295; Gore v. State, 58 id., 391; State v. Weasel, 30 La. Ann. Pt. 2, 919; Ake v. State, 30 Tex. 466; Spencer v. State, 31 id., 64; Priest v. State, 10 Neb. 393.) Confession to be admissible must relate to the offense charged in the indictment. (Com. v. Call, 21 Pick, 515; Sutton v. Johnson, 62 Ill. 209; Kinchlow v. State, 5 Humph., 9.) Confession of a third party is hearsay. (West v. State, 76 Ala. 98; Snow v. State, 38 id., 372; Smith v. State, 9 id., 990.)

To prove the falsity of defendant's testimony, the confession of a third person is not admissible. (Morrison v. Ohio, 5 O., 438; Brown v. State, 57 Miss. 424; R. v. Turner, Moody C. C., 347; 3 Am. & Eng. Ency. L., 483.)

Chandler's confessions were incompetent: 1. Because they were hearsay. 2. Because he was not shown to have been a confederate of Reavis. 3. Because they were confessions of a third party. 4. Because not made in the presence of Reavis.

Benjamin F. Fowler, Attorney General, for the State.

All evidence admissible in the trial of Chandler for the assault on Ingalls was admissible on trial of defendant for perjury. There is distinction, although a close one, between the declarations admitted on this trial, and admissions made by a principal in the absence of an accessory. It was necessary to establish the guilt of Chandler in order to show the falsity of defendant's testimony; and any evidence properly admitted at the trial of Chandler would be proper in proving the guilt of Reavis. (Reg. v. Harrison, 9 Cox C. C., 503; Anderson v. State, 24 Tex. App., 721; Heflin v. State, 14 S.E. 112 (Ga.); Maines v. State, 5 S.W. 123 Tex.; Rex v. Black, 19 Eng. C. L., 563; State v. Peterson, Kan. 38 Kan. 204. The case of Martin v. State, Tex. 33 Tex. App., 317, is directly in point and sustains the admissibility of the testimony.




Melvin Reavis, the plaintiff in error, was convicted of the crime of perjury in the district court for Laramie County.

The assignment of perjury is upon certain alleged false testimony of plaintiff in error upon the preliminary examination before a justice of the peace of one Isaac Chandler, charged with an assault with intent to murder upon the person of one Elbridge H. Ingalls. The testimony of Reavis alleged to be false was to the effect that Ingalls, who was a policeman at the time of the assault made upon him by Chandler, jerked Chandler, struck him on the head, and knocked him down, and further that a tall man, one John Gambrel, then took hold of Policeman Ingalls, and jumping in behind the latter, was trying to hit him over the shoulders and neck. This testimony related to the facts and circumstances of the assault upon Ingalls, and was to the effect that Chandler was struck and knocked down by Ingalls, just before the time when Ingalls was assaulted and severely cut and wounded by a razor, and was in such a condition that he could not have inflicted the wounds upon Ingalls; and that Gambrel committed the assault upon Ingalls instead of Chandler. The melee took place in front of a house of prostitution in the city of Cheyenne. Ingalls, the policeman, had been called to prevent a disturbance at the place, and had succeeded in persuading the party of men to leave the place, and was endeavoring to get them to return to Fort Russell, the disorderly men of the party being soldiers from that military post, who were more or less intoxicated and quarrelsome. Gambrel and Grimes, both soldiers from the post, were scuffling in front of the house, and Grimes had been thrown down by Gambrel. The policeman, it is contended for the prosecution, struck Gambrel with his "billy," or club, and Chandler then rushed in, seized the policeman, and cut him severely about the face and neck with a razor. Reavis, the plaintiff in error, who was not of the party from the post, but who witnessed the affair, and two other bystanders, testified that Chandler was knocked down by the policeman and Gambrel was the assaulting party. All of the evidence on the part of the prosecution was introduced to show that Reavis swore falsely as to the facts and circumstances of the assault. In addition, testimony was introduced to show that Chandler, after the affair, and while on his way to Fort Russell, said to his companions that he had cut the throats of two men that night, and that he was "the gamest man in the country," and made other declarations tending to show that he was the guilty party, and further, that some time after the assault, after he had deserted from the army, he asked and received accommodations for the night from a party, some fourteen miles from the city where the assault was committed; and after Chandler had gone to bed, he began to exclaim, "They are after me; they are after me." The witness went into the room where Chandler had retired, when the latter informed him that there were men in the room. The witness lighted a candle and explored the room, and informed Chandler that no one was there.

But little attention was paid in brief and argument to the numerous assignments of errors made by counsel for plaintiff in error, except the action of the trial court in admitting these declarations of Chandler after the assault. It is contended that these statements of Chandler were not admissible in evidence against Reavis, as the latter was not present at the times they were made, and because they were in their nature hearsay, and admissible only against the party making them. On the other hand, it is urged that these statements of Chandler were competent evidence against Reavis to show that the latter had sworn falsely, and because they constitute a part of the res gestae.

The trial court gave the following instructions to the jury in regard to this evidence, which were objected to by the plaintiff in error:

"9. If the jury believes from the evidence that the confessions and admissions testified to by the witnesses, Crockett Hounchell, John Gambrel, James L. Ewing, Walter D. Walker, and William Stansberry, as having been made in their hearing, respectively, by Isaac Chandler, were so made, and that they were the voluntary act of said Isaac Chandler, and if the jury believes that said confessions and admissions have been corroborated by satisfactory proof, and that said Ingalls was cut, stabbed, and wounded by the said Isaac Chandler, and that said Isaac Chandler was so situated that he had opportunity to do said cutting, stabbing, and wounding, then such confessions and admissions are entitled to great weight in the minds of the jury, in determining who did such cutting, stabbing, and wounding, and who was actually struck and knocked down in said melee by said Ingalls.

"10. Evidence has been introduced as to the alleged flight of said Isaac Chandler from this jurisdiction on the day after the assault and battery is alleged to have been committed by him on the prosecuting witness, Ingalls. If you find from the evidence that said Chandler did flee, this is a circumstance to be considered by you in connection with all the other evidence, to aid you in determining the question as to who did actually cut, stab, and wound the said Ingalls, and who was actually struck and knocked down by said Ingalls in said melee."

It is conceded that all of the testimony relating to the assault itself is competent as showing the truth or falsity of the statements of Reavis as a witness, upon the preliminary examination of Chandler. The object of introducing such testimony on the part of the prosecution was to show that the facts and circumstances of the assault exclude the idea of honest mistake on his part, the part of Reavis; and it was conceded that he could also introduce evidence showing that his theory of the assault was the correct one, and that he testified truthfully regarding the affair. But after the assault had been committed, were the declarations of Chandler, admitting his guilt, competent evidence to show the falsity of Reavis's testimony? Reavis was not present at this time, and the melee had ended. Chandler was bound by these statements in the criminal action against him, because his declarations were self-deserving and in the nature of a confession or admission. The general rule of evidence is that confessions and admissions are only evidence against the party making them. Roscoe Cr. Ev., 49; Wharton Cr. Ev., Sec 625; 1 Greenleaf...

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3 cases
  • State v. Zimmerman
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • April 2, 1992
    ...52 P.R.R. 399 (1937); Martinez v. People, 55 Colo. 51, 132 P. 64 (1913); Plummer v. Ricker, 71 Vt. 114, 41 A. 1045 (1898); Reavis v. State, 6 Wyo. 240, 44 P. 62 (1896); People v. Robinson, 19 Cal. 40 (1861). While courts differ in the technical reasoning for holding that sleep-talk is inadm......
  • Simms v. State
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • January 5, 1972
    ...and are the spontaneous expressions of the party making them under the spur of the moment in explanation of his motives. Reavis v. State, 6 Wyo. 240, 44 P. 62, 63. Sufficiency of the It is argued at length that the verdict of murder in the second degree was not sustained by sufficient evide......
  • Wilde v. State
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • April 25, 1912
    ... ... It is necessary on a trial for perjury to show ... by satisfactory evidence that the alleged false testimony was ... material, and by a reasonable doubt that it was false. (30 ... Cyc., 1446, 1417-1418, 1421; 2 Whart. Cr. Law, sec. 1325; ... Dickerson v. State, (Wyo.) 111 P. 857; Reavis v ... State, 6 Wyo. 240; State v. J. B. 1 Tyler, 269; ... State v. Lawson, (N. C.) 4 S.E. 134; State v ... Vandemark, (Conn.) 58 A. 715; Ex parte Meyer, (Cal.) 40 ... P. 953; Liggett v. State, (Tex.) 83 S.W. 807. Citing ... also several cases cited in the brief in the case of Fletcher ... ...

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