State v. Graham

Decision Date07 December 1897
PartiesSTATE v. GRAHAM.
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court

Appeal from superior court, Catawba county; Greene, Judge.

J. L Graham appeals from a conviction of arson. Reversed.

Evidence that defendant was guilty of an arson committed after the arson for which he is being tried is inadmissible.

MacRae & Day and Argo & Snow, for appellant.

The Attorney General, for the State.

FAIROLOTH C.J.

The defendant was indicted for burning a dwelling house, the property of A. J. Seagle and others, trustees of the Presbyterian church, used at the time of the burning as a dwelling by the defendant "as lessee." There were two counts in the indictment, each concluding, "against the form of the statute in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the state." The state introduced evidence to show that the dwelling was burned on the 5th of March, 1896, and that it was at that time the dwelling of the defendant, and used by him as lessee of the owners. The state also offered evidence tending to show that on May 8, 1895, the defendant occupied a rented cottage, the property of Mrs. Frye, and that, after defendant had insured his effects, said cottage and contents were burned on May 20 1895. This evidence was admitted to show the similarity of the offenses, and defendant excepted.

After verdict of guilty, the defendant moved in arrest of judgment because there was no offense charged in the bill, either at common law or under our statutes. On the motion in arrest of judgment we were favored with an argument against the sufficiency of the bill as a common-law offense charging the defendant with arson. We will not stop to pass upon that question, as the case falls easily within Code, § 1761, which declares that any tenant who shall injure any tenement house etc, of his landlord, by burning or in any other manner, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and fined or imprisoned, at the discretion of the court. Indeed, it is manifest to us that the bill, whether so intended or not, by its express terms is embraced by the language of the statute. The indictment charges the defendant "as lessee" (i. e. as tenant) of the landlord, and the trial, conviction, and sentence, fortunately for the defendant, were had upon that view of the offense. The offense could not have been included under any of the subsections of Code, § 985.

We think that the exception to the admission of evidence tending to show the burning of the cottage on May 20, 1895, was well taken. Evidence of a distinct, substantive offense cannot be admitted in support of another offense, as a general rule. State v. Shuford, 69...

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