State v. Adams

Citation50 S.E. 765,138 N.C. 688
PartiesSTATE v. ADAMS.
Decision Date16 May 1905
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina

Appeal from Superior Court, Wake County; Moore, Judge.

Will Adams was convicted of murder, and appeals. Affirmed.

Where in a prosecution for murder, the state relied on robbery as a motive, there was no error in refusing to instruct that the burden was on the state to show beyond a reasonable doubt not only that there was money in the house of the deceased and her husband, but that the defendant killed deceased in furtherance of an attempt to take such money.

This case was before us at a former term, when we ordered a new trial for the reason stated in the opinion of the court. 136 N.C. 617, 48 S.E. 589. The defendant was indicted in the court below for the murder of Mary Bridgers on Friday January 22, 1904. The testimony tended to show that Robert Bridgers and his wife (the deceased) and their three children lived in a house off the public road, and about a mile and a half from the defendant's home. The defendant had passed Bridgers' house, and inquired of him how much money he had made. Bridgers told him he made $300. Defendant afterwards asked Bridgers to change 10 cents, which Bridgers refused to do, saying that he did not keep money, but that his wife kept his money. Defendant was at Bridgers' house the day before the homicide was committed, and asked Mary Bridgers when her husband was going to town and when would he come back. She told him that her husband would go the next morning, and return about sunset. He then asked where her husband was at that time, and she replied: "Yonder he comes, with his gun on his shoulder. He has been hunting." Defendant was then standing in the yard, and as Bridgers approached him he left hurriedly, without speaking to Bridgers, though he was in speaking distance. Early Friday morning the defendant was seen going in the direction of the Bridgers house. He did not arrive at the Massey home, where he worked, until 9 or 10 o'clock in the forenoon, and remained there only until noon, when he left, and went in the direction of the Bridgers place. At 1 o'clock he was seen at the latter place, standing at the corner of the house. About sunset of the same day he was seen coming out of the woods or old field between the Bridgers house and the public road. He was running at the time, and his behavior was unusual. Crossing the road, he "squatted down" behind a holly bush, as if trying to conceal himself. One of the witnesses who saw him spoke to him, and asked him what he was doing there, and he made no reply. The witness remarked to his son, who was in the buggy with him: "That negro has done something mean. He is scared to death. It may be one of the negroes who broke out of jail." His son replied, "No, it is Will Adams." They left him there, and he was next seen at his own house, about 1 o'clock in the night, when the officer went to arrest him. His conduct at that time was peculiar. He refused to answer when he was called, and when the officer attempted to arrest him he resisted, and struck at the officer with a stick, and threatened to kill him. He did not submit until the officer threatened to shoot him with his gun. The officer examined his clothing, and found that his trousers and shoes and socks were wet. Tracks were found by the holly bush, and from the holly bush along a hedge row and thence on to the creek, and tracks were also found at the creek, indicating that some one had forded it at the place where it was crossed, and from the creek to the defendant's house. Tracks corresponding with those already mentioned were found at Bridgers' house, and from the house to the place where Mary Bridgers' body was found about 100 yards away, and from that place back to the house. Tracks were also found from the holly bush to a path at a point about 100 yards from the body. There was much evidence tending to show that all of these were tracks of the defendant. Robert Bridgers left his house early Friday morning for Raleigh, and returned at sunset the same day. As he approached the house, he called his wife, but received no answer. He then went to the house, and found two of his children badly wounded, and in a dying condition. He rode rapidly on his mule to the house of a neighbor, and the two returned to Bridgers' house. Bridgers examined his bureau, and found that his money, $6 in all, had been taken. He went to the back door of the house, and, seeing tracks, he followed them to the place about 100 yards from the house in the cotton patch, where he found his wife's dead body. Her head had been crushed, and the coroner, who is a physician, testified that it was done with a blunt instrument like the eye of an axe, and there was evidence tending to show that blood was found on the axe at the wood pile a few steps from the house. There were two tracks from Bridgers' house to the place where the body was found, one the track of a man and the other the track of a woman, and the tracks of a man returning to the house. The tracks from the house to the place where the body was found indicated by their appearance that the man and the woman were running when they were made. The defendant was searched by the officer who arrested him, and two half-dollar pieces and four coppers were found in his pockets. One of the silver coins was a very bright piece, and apparently had never been used; the other was older and darker. They were identified by Bridgers as two of the pieces taken from his bureau drawer. The defendant's statement, when asked by the examining magistrate as to his whereabouts on Friday, was contradicted by witnesses acquainted with the facts.

The defendant objected to all evidence relating to the finding of the children by Bridgers in his house when he returned from Raleigh and to their condition, as not being pertinent to the issue, and, upon its being admitted, he excepted.

The defendant asked that the following instructions be given to the jury: "(1) When circumstantial evidence is relied upon to convict, it must be clear, convincing, and conclusive in its connections and combination, and must exclude all rational doubt as to the defendant's guilt. And therefore, if the evidence as to the footprints in this case is not clear, satisfactory, convincing, and conclusive to the minds of the jury--in other words, if such evidence does not point with moral certainty to the guilt of the defendant, and to that of no other person--then the jury should acquit the defendant, unless the whole evidence in the case, after leaving out of consideration the evidence bearing upon the footprints, is sufficient to satisfy fully the minds of the jury as to the guilt of the defendant. (2) It is essential that the correspondence between the tracks and the feet or shoes of the defendant, to have a decisive bearing, should be proved by actual comparison--as by bringing the two into juxtaposition and placing the shoe into the impression, or by actual measurement of the two and a comparison of the measurements. (3) The footprints are insufficient to establish guilt if they are not distinguished from ordinary footprints by any peculiar marks, and the correspondence between them and the tracks of the defendant is merely in superficial shape, outline, and dimensions. (4) If the state has satisfied the jury from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Mary Bridgers was killed, and also from the evidence of footprints that the defendant, Will Adams, was in such a situation as made it possible for him to have committed the act, then it is incumbent on the state to show, if possible, that Will Adams had a motive for so doing; for where the state relies on circumstantial evidence to convict the motive becomes not only material, but controlling, and in such cases the facts from which it may be inferred must be proved. It cannot be imagined any more than any other circumstance in the case, and the burden is on the state to show to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had a motive for the commission of the act. (5) The court instructs the jury that the proof of the facts from which motive is to be inferred must be clear, satisfactory, convincing, and conclusive, and exclude any other reasonable hypothesis than that of the defendant's guilt. And, further, that such facts must be proved to have been known to the defendant at the time of the homicide. Therefore, since the state relies upon robbery as the motive in this case, the court instructs you that the burden is on the state to satisfy the minds of the jury beyond a reasonable doubt not only that Robert Bridgers, the husband of the deceased, had money in the house in which he lived, but that the defendant killed Mary Bridgers in furtherance of an attempt to take such money." The court refused to give these instructions, and the defendant excepted. The court gave other special instructions asked by the defendant, and charged the jury generally in regard to the facts and the law. There was no exception to the general charge. There was a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. Judgment was pronounced thereon, and the defendant excepted and appealed.

W. B. Snow and E. M. Shaffer, for appellant.

The Attorney General, for the State.

WALKER, J. (after stating the facts).

The defendant objected to the testimony of Robert Bridgers as to the condition of his children when he found them on his return to his home, upon the ground that it was not pertinent to the issue, and his counsel argued before us that, if it was pertinent for any purpose, it should have been restricted by the court in its charge to that purpose. There...

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