State v. Frank Jurras

Decision Date09 November 1923
CourtVermont Supreme Court

October Term, 1923.

COMPLAINT for illegally furnishing and possessing intoxicating liquor. Plea, not guilty. Trial by jury in the city court of Barre, H. W. Scott, Judge. Verdict, guilty. Judgment on the verdict. The opinion states the case.

Judgment that there is no error in the proceedings and that the respondent takes nothing by his exceptions.

S Hollister Jackson and Eda G. Jennings for the respondent.

Charles B. Adams, State's attorney, and Webster E Miller for the State.



The respondent was brought before the city court of Barre upon the complaint of the State's attorney charging him with furnishing and possessing intoxicating liquor contrary to law. He pleaded not guilty, and the prosecution was continued from time to time until July 23, 1923, when, on a trial by jury, he was found guilty and sentenced. In the cross-examination of the chief of police of the city of Barre, who was called as a witness for the State and had testified only respecting a search of the respondent's premises, the latter's counsel sought to show that a secret inquest had been held while the prosecution was pending, in which one matter of consideration was the examination of witnesses produced to obtain evidence against the respondent for use at the trial; that the witness participated in the inquest; and that the municipal judge who was presiding at the trial ordered the inquest and presided thereat. The respondent's claim was that his constitutional right to an impartial trial was infringed upon by the action of the court in participating in the inquest. After stating his claim counsel said, "I ask the court in the first place if these facts are so, and the court knows whether they are, and that the respondent be dismissed from the charge." The court ruled in substance that the constitutional right of a respondent to a fair trial is a right to be tried before a jury in open court only on evidence adduced in court--that it is entirely immaterial to the respondent how the State secured the information for such trial--and excluded "all matters pertaining to the preparation of the case." The respondent asked for and was allowed an exception to the court's ruling. Immediately thereafter respondent's counsel was permitted to pursue this line of inquiry, on the claim that he had a right to do so to show the bias or prejudice of the witness, and developed the fact that an inquest was held, that a subpoena which the witness served was signed by the municipal judge who was presiding at the trial, that the same judge presided at the inquest, and that one of the matters being investigated related to the charge against the respondent. Most of the witnesses who testified to having purchased intoxicating liquor of the respondent were asked in cross-examination if they testified at the inquest and replied in the affirmative. At the close of the State's evidence respondent's counsel stated that, because of the position already taken that the court, by reason of holding a secret inquest on the very matter complained of in the case on trial, "had disqualified for trial," the respondent would refrain from putting in any evidence in defense. The case was submitted to the jury under a charge that was not excepted to. Upon the return of the verdict the State's attorney moved for judgment on verdict. Respondent's counsel asked to have exceptions noted and that the respondent be admitted to bail pending a hearing on the exceptions. The State's attorney pressed the motion for judgment and sentence and opposed the request for bail. Thereupon the respondent moved in arrest of judgment on the ground that the court was disqualified and without jurisdiction in the matter, having acted as magistrate at a secret inquest at which evidence concerning the complaint in the case on trial was under consideration. The motion was overruled and the respondent was allowed an exception.

On the record the respondent now claims in effect that the action of the trial judge in ordering and participating in the inquest conducted for the purpose of procuring evidence to be used in the trial of a complaint then pending disqualified him from presiding at the subsequent trial; and that, in the circumstances shown, his constitutional right to an impartial trial was invaded. This, however, is not an accurate statement of the questions reserved by his exceptions. Respecting the first one noted, the question for decision was whether the offered evidence was admissible. Beyond this, the most that could be claimed is that the court erred in denying a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground of the court's disqualification to preside at the trial. For obvious reasons the exclusion of the evidence was not reversible error, and in any event the respondent was not entitled to be discharged, but at most to a trial before a judge who was not disqualified. It would seem that the motion in arrest was an oral motion, and so did not comply with the rule which requires all such motions to be in writing. State v. Longe, 96 Vt. 7, 116 A. 81. The steps taken to raise the question now relied upon were plainly inadequate to make the question available on review. Cady v. Lang, 95 Vt. 287, 115 A....

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 cases
  • Mabel C. Leonard v. Superior Judge Julius A. Willcox
    • United States
    • Vermont Supreme Court
    • July 7, 1928
    ... ... person named therein to other party outside State, held ... sufficient under circumstances to give court jurisdiction ...          20 ... S. Fenton for Superior Judge Willcox ...           Collins ... M. Graves, Frank C. Archibald , and George L. Hunt, ... pro se , and for John N. Leonard ... point, but that since the question of bias is one of fact ( ... State v. Jurras , 97 Vt. 276, 280, 122 A ... 589), a plea in abatement is the appropriate procedure ... ...

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT