Sprinkle v. State, 24434

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtANDERSON, J.
Citation137 Miss. 731,102 So. 844
PartiesSPRINKLE v. STATE. [*]
Docket Number24434
Decision Date09 February 1925

102 So. 844

137 Miss. 731

SPRINKLE
v.
STATE. [*]

No. 24434

Supreme Court of Mississippi

February 9, 1925


(In Banc, )

1. CRIMINAL LAW. Refusal to permit defendant's counsel to examine statement of deceased's dying declaration held error.

Refusal to allow defendant's counsel to examine statement of deceased's dying declarations taken down by stenographer at district attorney's request, for use in cross-examination, held error.

2. CRIMINAL LAW. Reading of newspaper article by jurors while in jury room held ground for new trial.

Action of jurors in reading newspaper article in jury room, charging defendant with the commission of other crimes, held ground for new trial.

3. CRIMINAL LAW. Rule as to admissibility of jurors' evidence as to misconduct in jury room stated.

Jurors cannot impeach their own verdict by giving evidence as to what influenced their verdict, but may testify as to misconduct of other jurors and as to outside influences brought to bear on them.

4. CRIMINAL LAW. Jurors could testify as to reading of newspaper article but not as to effect thereof.

On motion for new trial, jurors could testify as to reading of newspaper article in jury room, but could not testify as to effect thereof on their verdict.

5. HOMIGIDE. Evidence as to deceased's reputation held admissible in prosecution involving issue as to whether defendant or deceased was aggressor.

In homicide prosecution, involving issue as to whether deceased or defendant was aggressor, testimony that deceased had reputation of habitually going armed, and also had a bad reputation for peace, and that such character was known to defendant, held admissible.

TH, C. J., and HOLDEN, J., dissenting. [137 Miss. 732]

HON. D. M. GRAHAM, Judge.

APPEAL from circuit court of Harrison county, HON. D. M. GRAHAM, Judge.

Levi Sprinkle was convicted of murder, and he appeals. Reversed and remanded.

Reversed and remanded.

Mize & Mize and Geo. R. Smith, for appellant.

The court erred in not compelling the district attorney to produce the written dying statement of the deceased, as requested by appellant. The district attorney was sworn as a witness and testified that on the morning of the 17th of December, 1923, he visited the King's Daughters' Hospital and saw Louis Faye; that the deceased was suffering a great deal and talked with much difficulty; that he had a conversation with him and that he made a statement to him as to how the affair occurred. At this juncture, the district attorney was asked the following: "Go ahead and tell the jury what he told you." When this question was asked, objection was made by appellant's attorneys who then asked some preliminary questions.

The district attorney gave the details of the conversation, over the appellant's objection. Repeated demands were made by appellant's counsel on the district attorney for the written dying statement, and all objections by the state to said demands were sustained, the district attorney continuing to refuse to produce the statement. What purported to be a dying statement was made by Faye to the district attorney. This statement or conversation was taken down in shorthand by a stenographer procured by the district attorney for that purpose, after which, said stenographer transcribed it. She says she is sure she took it down and transcribed it correctly; and the district attorney says it is substantially correct. After it was transcribed, the district attorney obtained it from the stenographer. Then, at the trial of the case, the district attorney, instead of introducing the written dying statement of [137 Miss. 733] Faye, testified as to his own recollection of what the dying statement was, when, at the same time, he had the written dying statement in his pocked on the witness stand.

The dying statement detailed by the district attorney on the witness stand was most damaging to the appellant, and in fact was all of the testimony that the state introduced as to the actual facts. The object of appellant's request for the production of the written dying statement was to see the nature of the questions asked by the district attorney of the deceased and his answers thereto, as the dying declaration taken down and transcribed might have shown that the questions asked by the district attorney were leading questions. Dying declarations are subject to close scrutiny by a defendant, and it was certainly nothing but fairness and justice to appellant that the court require the production of the written dying statement.

The court erred in not allowing appellant to show the general reputation and character of the deceased for peace and violence.

George Robinson, on behalf of appellant, was asked the following question: "Q. Did you know Louis Faye during his lifetime? A. Yes sir. Q. State whether or not, if you know, he went habitually armed." Objection was made by the state and was sustained and defendant excepted. Then he was asked: "Q. Do you know his general reputation for going habitually armed?" Objection to this question was sustained. Then he was asked: "Q. Do you know his general reputation during his lifetime or the last two years of his life, for going habitually armed, carrying arms, in the community where he lived?" Objection to this was sustained, and exception taken. Similar questions were asked witnesses Farrell and Wittman.

All of the foregoing testimony offered by appellant as to the character of the deceased for peace and violence was certainly competent, under the rule laid down [137 Miss. 734] in Moriarty v. State, 65 Miss. 654; King v. State, 65 Miss. 576; Spivey v. State, 58 Miss. 743, 858, where the court said that it was competent for the defendant to show the general reputation of the deceased for peace and violence, and that he went habitually armed and that defendant knew it.

The court erred in not granting the appellant a new trial on account of the reading by the jurors while they were considering their verdict of a newspaper, the Times-Picayune, containing an account of the trial and stating that the defendant had killed another man and had been accused of hi-jacking and that the citizens of Pass Christian had been trying to oust him from office and that it was contended that the only way to get him out of office was for him to be convicted of crime.

After the verdict was returned, counsel for appellant learned that before the jury had reached its verdict, various jurors had read said newspaper article, and embodied in his motion for a new trial the fact that said newspaper article had been read by members of the jury before reaching their verdict, and introduced the newspaper in evidence, and the facts concerning the obtaining of the newspapers and what was done with same. Three members of the jury testified to these facts and circumstances. Appellant introduced said newspaper, of date, June 17, 1924, and had certain portions copied in the record, giving a resume of the evidence and statements about the conduct of Sprinkles.

The refusal of the court to grant a new trial on account of the jurors reading this newspaper article was gross error. Cartright v. State, 71 Miss. 82; Maddox v. United States, 36 L.Ed. 917; Styles v. State, 129 Ga. 425; State v. Caine, 134 Ia. 147; Myer v. Cadwalader, 49 F. 32; United States v. Ogden, 105 F. 374; People v. Leary, 105 Cal. 486; People v. Chinnon, 146 Cal. 561; W. Chicago St. Ry. Co. v. Grenell, 90 Ill.App. 30; Hempton v. State, 111 Wis. 150; Hamilton v. Pease, 38 Conn. 115; Morse v. Montana-Oregon Purchasing Co., [137 Miss. 735] 105 F. 345; Walker v. State, 37 Tex. 366; State v. Robinson, 20 W.Va. 763; Farrar v. State, 2d Ohio 58.

It is shown by the record that this newspaper article remained with the jury in the neighborhood of about an hour before they reached their verdict, and the record affirmatively shows that this article was read by jurors before their verdict was reached.

For the errors herein discussed, this case should be reversed.

Harry M. Bryan, Assistant Attorney-General, for the state.

The district attorney testified that he himself made pencil notes of the dying declaration of deceased, and further testified that while Mrs. Meadows transcribed the dying declaration, it was not accurate.

It was a matter for the jury to pass upon the credibility of the district attorney's testimony and it has long been a rule that courts will not control the manner and order of the introduction of testimony so long as there is no abuse of substantial rights. The district attorney was the witness and if he, on his oath, said that the stenographic notes as transcribed were inaccurate, he had the right to refuse to surrender them to counsel and to submit his statement of what deceased told him to the jury for what it was worth.

Counsel urges, but not seriously, that it was unfair for the district attorney to be permitted to testify in this case since, "it was shown that there were several other persons who heard his dying statement." I know of no rule of law which prohibits the district attorney from taking the witness stand and testifying as to a matter of this kind, nor has counsel directed our attention to such.

We concede that the most serious question raised by counsel is whether or not the court erred in not granting [137 Miss. 736] appellant a new trial on account of the jurors reading a certain article appearing in the Times-Picayune prior to the rendition of their verdict. Considerable testimony was taken on the motion for a new trial and it cannot be successfully controverted that the jurors somehow obtained a copy of the Times-Picayune of June 17, 1924, in which was an account of the trial of the case. Some of the jurors testified that they read only small parts of the article, while it is in testimony that the whole of the article was read by some. The court held that the jurors could not impeach their verdicts but allowed...

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25 practice notes
  • Keeton v. State, 31931
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • April 6, 1936
    ...the defendant by the prosecution, touching her guilt or innocence of the crime charged. Eaton v. State, 140 So. 733; Sprinkle v. State, 137 Miss. 731, 102 So. 844; State v. Tippett, 296 S.W. 132; U. S. v. Rich, 6 Alaska, 670; People v. Gerold, 265 Ill. 448, 107 N.E. 165, Ann. Cas. 1916, 636......
  • Odom v. State, 31634
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 6, 1935
    ...our Constitution guarantees to him. Magness case, 103 Miss. 30, 60 So. 8; Cartwright v. State, 71 Miss. 82, 14 So. 526; Sprinkle v. State, 102 So. 844, 137 Miss. 731; Holifield v. State, 132 Miss. 446, 96 So. 306; Davis v. State, 132 Miss. 448, 96 So. 307. On the morning of September 28th, ......
  • Heidel v. State, No. 07-KA-59495
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • September 11, 1991
    ...propensity for wielding a butcher knife "by testimony as to reputation." This is the rule of the pre-Rules cases, Sprinkle v. State, 137 Miss. 731, 102 So. 844 (1925), and King v. State, 65 Miss. 576, 5 So. 97 (1888), Heidel cites in his briefs. Rule 405(a) also authorizes "testimony in the......
  • State ex rel. Railroad Co. v. Hall, No. 29834.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 15, 1930
    ...v. State, 221 S.W. 611; Tinker v. State, 253 S.W. 531; Davis v. State, 270 S.W. 1022; State v. Bankston, 116 So. 565; Sprinkle v. State, 102 So. 844, 137 Miss. 731; People v. Nields, 232 Pac. 985, 70 Cal. App. 191; Currie v. State, 279 S.W. 834; Ex parte Schoepf, 74 Ohio St. 1, 77 N.E. 276;......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • Keeton v. State, 31931
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • April 6, 1936
    ...the defendant by the prosecution, touching her guilt or innocence of the crime charged. Eaton v. State, 140 So. 733; Sprinkle v. State, 137 Miss. 731, 102 So. 844; State v. Tippett, 296 S.W. 132; U. S. v. Rich, 6 Alaska, 670; People v. Gerold, 265 Ill. 448, 107 N.E. 165, Ann. Cas. 1916, 636......
  • Odom v. State, 31634
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 6, 1935
    ...our Constitution guarantees to him. Magness case, 103 Miss. 30, 60 So. 8; Cartwright v. State, 71 Miss. 82, 14 So. 526; Sprinkle v. State, 102 So. 844, 137 Miss. 731; Holifield v. State, 132 Miss. 446, 96 So. 306; Davis v. State, 132 Miss. 448, 96 So. 307. On the morning of September 28th, ......
  • Heidel v. State, No. 07-KA-59495
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • September 11, 1991
    ...propensity for wielding a butcher knife "by testimony as to reputation." This is the rule of the pre-Rules cases, Sprinkle v. State, 137 Miss. 731, 102 So. 844 (1925), and King v. State, 65 Miss. 576, 5 So. 97 (1888), Heidel cites in his briefs. Rule 405(a) also authorizes "testimony in the......
  • State ex rel. Railroad Co. v. Hall, No. 29834.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 15, 1930
    ...v. State, 221 S.W. 611; Tinker v. State, 253 S.W. 531; Davis v. State, 270 S.W. 1022; State v. Bankston, 116 So. 565; Sprinkle v. State, 102 So. 844, 137 Miss. 731; People v. Nields, 232 Pac. 985, 70 Cal. App. 191; Currie v. State, 279 S.W. 834; Ex parte Schoepf, 74 Ohio St. 1, 77 N.E. 276;......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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