State v. Edwards

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Citation51 W.Va. 220,41 S.E. 429
Decision Date22 March 1902

41 S.E. 429
51 W.Va. 220


Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

March 22, 1902.


1. Where a person, by means of some fraud or trick, procures the delivery of money or goods, to him by the owner, with the intent to steal the same, it amounts to a taking of the property, within the definition of larceny, unless the delivery of the possession is made for the purpose of passing the title to the property as well as its possession; and, if possession be acquired by such means, and with inch intent, and the goods or money are afterwards converted by the taker to his own use, the offense is larceny.

2. Where both possession and title are obtained by false pretenses, with intent to defraud, the offense is obtaining money by false pretenses, in which case the statute declares that the offender shall be deemed guilty of larceny.

3. When possession is obtained by means of fraud, trick, or device, so as to make the taking felonious, and the taker converts the property to his own use, the offense is common-law larceny, and a conviction may be had upon a common-law indictment for larceny

4. In such case, the indictment need not specify the means by which the larceny was effected.

5. Whether the possession was so obtained with intent to steal is a question for the jury.

6. The instruments, devices, or tokens used in the commission of a crime are competent and legitimate evidence in the trial of the accused, and the taking of them from his person by an officer who has arrested him upon a charge of his having committed the crime is not an illegal seizure; nor is the search of his person for such instruments an unreasonable search, within the meaning of the constitutional provision against unreasonable search

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Error to circuit court Harrisor county John W Mason, Judge.

D. J. Edwards was convicted of grand larceny, and brings error. Affirmed.

M. G Sperry and J. R. Swiger, for plaintiff in error

J. E. Law, Pros. Atty., and R. H. Freer, Atty. Gen., for the State.

POFFENBAKGER, J. Although involving an old and well-settled principle of criminal law, this case is the first of the kind to come to this court, and seems to be rather novel, because the courts are not often called upon to pass upon cases involving the question presented here. It Is a conviction of the crime of grand larceny where the prosecutor has been deprived of his money by a trick and conspiracy. E. L. Dennison, a farmer, residing in Harrison county at a point about 12 miles from Clarksburg, was the victim. On a certain Thursday, while away from home, he was followed up by the defendant, D. J. Edwards, who represented himself to be one of a wealthy firm of bankers and coal operators of Fairmont, named Watson, and said he wanted to buy the prosecutor's land, a tract of about 400 acres, for the purpose of developing it as oil land, that being a section of the state In which there was considerable activity in oil production at that time. He made an appointment with Dennison to see him at his (Dennison's) home on the following Monday, promising to bring with him some other parties. On the day agreed upon he came, but there was nobody with him. He explained this by saying that the party whom he had expected to bring was a woman, and that she was sick. He said he would bring her over in a few days, that whatever he might do would be all right, but that he did not want to trade until she came. He then invited Dennison to get in his buggy and drive down the road with him and show him the land. After they had gone some distance they met a large man, who, as they were driving past, inquired the distance to Clarksburg, and began a conversation. Edwards immediately stopped the buggy, and the large man represented that he lived in Alabama, and had a sister living, as he supposed, at some place near Clarksburg, for whom he was hunting, claiming that she had been disinherited by her father; that her father had since died; and that he had come into possession of a large amount of money, and was seeking her, with the view of dividing with her. He represented that a man whom he had met in Harrison county had won $500 from him in a game which they had played, and then, coming up to the buggy, produced the cards, and began to show Dennison and Edwards the three-card monte game by which he had lost the $500. After manipulating the cards a while, he proposed to bet on them. Dennison was reluctant, but was encouraged by Edwards. The big man pulled a red handkerchief out of his pocket, apparently full of money, from which he took two $5 bills, handing one to Edwards and the other to Dennison. After some shuffling of the cards, and Edwards and Dennison had each turned a blank, the man from Alabama proposed to play with them for $2,000, and took out a roll which had the appearance of money, and had marked on it "Two Thousand Dollars, " and placed it in the hands of Dennison. Edwards took it out of his hands, and placed it in the inside pocket of Dennison's vest. Then the man from Alabama said all he asked of them was that they get the money, to which Dennison replied that he had no money there, and they suggested that he had money at Clarksburg in the bank, and be replied that he did have some there. Then Edwards opened a satchel containing a little tin box, and said to the man from Alabama that they would put the money into that box and lock it up and give him the key, and they would go to Clarksburg to get their money. Dennison said he would have to go home first, and they drove back to his house, where

[41 S.E. 430]

they ate dinner, and then drove to Clarksburg. They were to raise $2,000 between them, and Edwards insisted that Dennison should borrow some money and make his share $800, while he, Edwards, undertook to furnish the balance, representing that he could get all the money he wanted from the woman of whom he had spoken. Dennison declined to borrow any money, but agreed to put in what he bad in the bank, $.100, Edwards agreeing to raise the balance, $1,700. Dennison went to the bank, and got his money, while Edwards pretended to go and get the $1,700. They then went back and met the stranger on the road. After they had met him, Edwards pulled out what appeared to be a bunch of money, and said, "Here is my money, Mr. Dennison; where is yours?" Then Dennison took out his $300, and Edwards took it and said. "Now here Is my pile, and here is Mr. Dennison's; are you satisfied?" After a pretense of quibbling over the matter, he unlocked the tin box, and took out the bundle that had been left in it, and then deposited it and Edwards' bundle and Dennison's money in the box, and the three went on In the buggy. After going about two miles Dennison suggested that they return to the unfortunate Alabaman part of his money, to which Edwards at first objected, but afterwards assented, and the box was opened, and one of the bunches handed to the stranger. Dennison's story is not very clear, but the substance of it seems to be that there was a pretense that he and Edwards had won the $2,000 from the stranger, but he required them, as a condition precedent to final payment of it, that they produce an equal amount, and that it was for that purpose that they had gone to Clarksburg. He says that on the way to Clarksburg and back Edwards had repeatedly told him to take care of the money, and that he (Edwards) would take care of the man, meaning that, as the man was anxious to get out of the country where he was losing so much money, he would take him to the train. As they drove along the road It was suggested that Dennison take Edwards' satchel and the money and go on home, while Edwards took the other man to the train, and when they had driven to a certain point the buggy was stopped, and Edwards ordered Dennison and the stranger to get out, and told Dennison to take the satchel, but he did not care to take it, and then Edwards said, "I'll just give you the box, " and then the big man walked around and engaged Dennison in conversation, while Edwards got out the box and wrapped it up in a newspaper. He then handed it to Dennison to take home with him, promising, himself, to come back that night, or the next morning at the latest, when they would divide. Then Edwards and the stranger got in the buggy and drove off. Soon afterwards, Dennison, suspecting that he had been defrauded, opened the box, and found that it contained no money, but, as he says, a few old papers. In fact It was a bundle or roll of worthless old state bank notes, which bear some resemblance in appearance to our currency. Dennison then went in hot pursuit of the man, and succeeded in having the defendant arrested before lie got away, but the other man escaped. On the person of the defendant was found $110 In good money, consisting of five $20 bills and two $5 bills. In addition to thfs he had a supply of the worthless bank notes. The money that Dennison had gotten from the bank was all in $20 bills, and the cashier of the bank testified that the bills found In the defendant's possession looked very much like those which he had given the prosecutor at the bank. The indictment contained three counts. Two of them were in the usual form, and the...

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