State v. Fortin

Decision Date04 February 1910
Citation76 A. 896,106 Me. 382
PartiesSTATE v. FORTIN.
CourtMaine Supreme Court

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Exceptions from Supreme Judicial Court, Androscoggin County.

Thomas Fortin was convicted of keeping a liquor nuisance, and brings exceptions. Overruled.

Argued before EMERY, C. J., and PEABODY, CORNISH, KING, and BIRD, JJ.

Frank A. Morey, Co. Atty., for the State.

Tascus Atwood, for defendant.

EMERY, C. J. The issue in this ease was whether the defendant was guilty of maintaining a nuisance at the place named in the indictment. At the trial "the witness for the state" testified without objection, so far as appears, that complaints had been made to him against the place named. The defendant then asked the witness to name the complainants, but the court ruled that the witness need not answer. It is not explicitly stated in the bill of exceptions who "the witness for the state" was, but it is a fair inference that he was an officer; and, as both counsel so assumed in argument, we assume the same.

It is a well-settled rule that a defendant upon the trial of an indictment against him is not entitled as of right to know who gave the information or made the complaints which started the prosecution. Such communications to officers of the law should ordinarily be regarded as privileged as to the identity of the informant or complainant on the ground of public policy, so that no one from fear of consequences to him personally shall hesitate to give information of offenses. State v. Soper, 16 Me. 293, 33 Am. Dec. 665; U. S. v. Moses, 4 Wash. C. C. 726, Fed. Cas. No. 15.825; Worthington v. Scribuer, 109 Mass. 487, 12 Am. Rep. 736; People v. Laird. 102 Mich. 135, 60 N. W. 457; Wigmore on Ev. § 2374, and notes.

It is urged, however, that while a defendant may not himself bring out evidence of complaints, and then require the names of the complainants, yet if it appears, as in this case, from the evidence for the prosecution, that complaints were made, he is then entitled as of right to the names of the complainants. We do not see any distinction in principle. The reason of the rule, the encouraging the fearless performance of the duty of giving information, certainly includes this case. It cannot be that the immunity of the informant is destroyed by the mere statement that information was received or complaints made. Under such a rule no informant would be safe.

But the defendant argued that the statement that complaints had been made was prejudicial to him, and that he thereby became entitled to know the names of the complainants in order that he might contradict the statement or bring out the motives for the complaints, however much the public might be injured by such a course. What might have been the right of the defendant had he objected to the testimony and his objection overruled, we have no occasion to say. The testimony appears to be entirely immaterial, of no probative force, and if objected to would doubtless have been excluded. A party is not entitled as of right to raise an issue...

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8 cases
  • State v. Sanborn
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • September 15, 1961
    ...must be presumed that such an instruction would have effaced all prejudice, if any, resulting from the statement * * *' State v. Fortin, 106 Me. 382, 384, 76 A. 896, 897. See, also, State v. Norton, 151 Me. 178, 182, 116 A.2d 635. In the instant case as always the Respondent's constitutiona......
  • State v. Carden
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • February 26, 1936
    ... ... [Citing Ala. cases.] 'In the absence ... of statute, the state cannot be compelled to disclose the ... names of private prosecutors or informers, especially where ... it is not shown that defendant will be prejudiced by the want ... of such information.' 16 C.J. 801; State v ... Fortin, 106 Me. 382, 76 A. 896, 21 Ann.Cas. 454; ... Barkman v. State (Tex.Cr.App.) 52 S.W. 69. The rule ... is founded upon the public policy that encourages the citizen ... to give aid in the detection and punishment of crime. * * * ... The official representative of the state has the first duty ... ...
  • Segurola v. United States, 1922.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • December 18, 1926
    ...and exhaustive opinions reviewing most of the pertinent earlier authorities. The same principle is enunciated in State v. Fortin, 106 Me. 382, 76 A. 896, 21 Ann. Cas. 454; Elrod v. Moss, 278 F. 123, 127; Arnstein v. United States, 54 App. D. C. 199, 296 F. 946, The case is in that regard pl......
  • Handley v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • November 19, 1925
    ... ... Ala.App. 154, 75 So. 830 ... "In the absence of statute, the state cannot be ... compelled to disclose the names of private prosecutors or ... informers, especially where it is not shown that defendant ... will be prejudiced by the want of such information." 16 ... C.J. 801; State v. Fortin, 106 Me. 382, 76 A. 890, ... 21 Ann.Cas. 454; Barkman v. State (Tex.Cr.App.) 52 ... The ... rule is founded upon the pubic policy that encourages the ... citizen to give aid in the detection and punishment of crime ... He need not assume the role of a prosecutor, but, with the ... ...
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