State v. Jeffrey

Decision Date24 March 1933
Docket NumberNo. 29166.,29166.
Citation188 Minn. 476,247 N.W. 692
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Appeal from District Court, Hennepin County; Levi M. Hall, Judge.

Bastardy proceeding by the State of Minnesota against Henry C. Jeffrey. From an order denying his motion for a new trial, defendant appeals.


Walter E. Woolf, of St. Paul, for appellant.

Ed. J. Goff, Co. Atty, and Allen T. Rorem. Asst. Co. Atty., both of Minneapolis, for the State.

WILSON, Chief Justice.

Defendant appealed from an order denying his motion for a new trial. He was convicted in bastardy proceedings of being the father of an illegitimate child.

Under our statute a party to the record in a civil action may be called by the adverse party as if under cross-examination. G. S. 1923 (2 Mason, 1927) § 9816. The object or purpose is that a litigant may call the adverse party without making him his own witness and elicit from him, if possible, material facts within his knowledge.

In this, a bastardy proceeding under our statute, defendant was required, over his objection, to submit to a cross-examination as if this action were a civil cause. On such cross-examination defendant testified that he had had sexual relations with the mother of the child, and gave other testimony which tended to show that the child was his.

No person "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." Minn. Const. art. 1, § 7; U. S. Const. Amendments, art. 5.

Defendant now claims that he has been deprived of his rights under the foregoing constitutional provisions. To reach this conclusion he asserts, as the foundation for this claim, that a bastardy proceeding under our statute is a criminal proceeding. We think not.

These proceedings are instituted under G. S. 1923 (1 Mason, 1927) c. 17, §§ 3261-3273. They are intended to provide a way for fixing parental responsibility; to aid the mother, and to protect the public from having to support a child which rightfully should be supported by its father.

A proceeding of this character has at times been termed quasi criminal. State v. Becht, 23 Minn. 1. Quasi is a Latin word, often prefixed to English words, implying mere appearance or want of reality. It may mean resemblance or "as if."

So in such a proceeding as authorized by the statute we have certain characteristics giving the appearance, the resemblance, or "as if" a criminal action. A complaint is filed and a warrant is issued. Defendant may be arrested, he may be required to give recognizance for his appearance, and failure to do so may result in his going to jail.

But none of these things, criminal forms of procedure, determine whether the proceeding is civil or criminal. In fact, it may well be said that the state merely loans its name to be used as plaintiff. The nature of the action is not determined by procedure.

It seems to be generally understood that the rules of procedure applicable to civil actions generally are to prevail. 7 C. J. 966 § 57. This is not the universal rule in all the states, but it is fairly recognized in this state.

In State v. Worthingham, 23 Minn. 528, 537, it was held that the oath administered to petit jurors in a bastardy proceeding was the form provided in our statute for use in "the trial of any civil action or proceeding," and not that oath provided for the trial of criminal cases. The court, however, said: "The use of the latter is confined exclusively to the trial of cases wholly and essentially criminal in their nature and character. The former is applicable not only to the trial of civil actions, properly so called, but to all such other actions and special proceedings as, strictly speaking, are neither civil nor criminal actions, and hence cannot properly be classified under either head."

The foregoing, however, does not answer our inquiry. In State v. Nichols, 29 Minn. 357, 13 N. W. 153, this court said that proceedings of this character "are not properly criminal in their nature, and proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not necessary to the conviction of a defendant. For the same reason it is not necessary that the testimony of the complainant (the mother) be corroborated by other evidence." It was also there stated: "This is not a criminal proceeding, in the proper sense of the term." See, also, State v. Eichmiller, 35 Minn. 240, 28 N. W. 503.

An appeal in a bastardy proceeding is regulated by the procedure in civil cases. State v. Klitzke, 46 Minn. 343, 49 N. W. 54. Indeed our five-sixths jury law, which has no application to criminal cases, applies to the trial of a case in proceedings of this character. State v. Longwell, 135 Minn. 65, 160 N. W. 189, 190. In the Longwell Case it was said: "By practically all of our decisions we have negatived the theory that they are so far of a criminal nature as to require an application of the rules of criminal procedure, and the practice in civil actions has uniformly been followed and applied."

In State v. Nestaval, 72 Minn. 415, 419, 75 N. W. 725, 726, this court, in discussing cases of this character, said: "The proceeding is a civil, and not a criminal one."

In State v. Brathovde, 81 Minn. 501, 84 N. W. 340, 341, a case of this kind, the court said: "So far as the rules of evidence and pleadings are concerned, such proceedings are of a civil nature, not criminal, and the sufficiency of the complaint is to be tested by the rules applicable to...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 cases
  • Sivald v. Ford Motor Co.
    • United States
    • Minnesota Supreme Court
    • March 24, 1933
  • Sivald v. Ford Motor Co.
    • United States
    • Minnesota Supreme Court
    • March 24, 1933
    ... ... State ex rel. v. District Court, 140 Minn. 470, 168 N. W. 555, 15 A. L. R. 579, supra; Linnane v. Ætna Brewing Co., L. R. A. 1917D, note, 114 ... ...

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