State v. Kring

Decision Date30 April 1877
PartiesSTATE OF MISSOURI, Appellant, v. CHARLES F. KRING, Respondent.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Appeal from the St. Louis Court of Appeals.

J. L. Smith, Att'y Gen'l, for Appellant, cited: People vs. Harrington, 42 Cal. 165; Phillipson vs. Bates, 2 Mo. 116; State vs. Holme, 54 Mo. 153; State vs. Underwood, 57 Mo. 40; State vs. Starr, 38 Mo. 270.

R. S. McDonald, with Presley N. Jones, for Respondent, cited: 16 Howell, State Trials, 94; 13 Id. 222; 5 Id. 979; 4 Bl. Com. 322; 1 Leach, 43; 2 Hale Pleas of Crown, 219; 1 Greenl. Ev. 102; 2 Id. 371; Grant vs. Thompson, 4 Conn. 203; Pratt vs. Coffman, 33 Mo. 76; Dickinson vs. Barber, 9 Mass. 225; Kinne vs. Kinne, 9 Conn. 102; McLane vs. State, 16 Ala. 680; McAlister vs. State, 17 Ala. 434; State vs. Scott, 1 Hawks, 32; Whart. Cr. Law, § 57; People vs. March, 6 Cal. 543; Wright vs. Tatem, 1 Ad. & El. 387; 7 Ad. & El. 313; U. S. vs. Sharp, 1 Pet. C. C. 118; State vs. Mary, 50 Mo. 81; Freleigh vs. State, 8 Mo. 612; Rucker vs. Eddings, 7 Mo. 116; State vs. Main, 31 Conn. 577; Hoskins vs. State, 11 Ga. 96; 22 Ala. 38; 21 Id. 549, 558; State vs. Foster, 61 Mo. 549; State vs. Dunn, 18 Mo. 421; State vs. Starr, 38 Mo. 270.

NAPTON, Judge, delivered the opinion of the court.

The defendant was tried and convicted of murder in the first degree, at the November term, 1875, of the Criminal Court of St. Louis, and sentenced to be hanged, but on an appeal to the Court of Appeals of St. Louis, the judgment was reversed and a new trial ordered, and from this last judgment of reversal the State appeals to this court.

As the opinions of the court of appeals are reported and published, it is unnecessary to review the ground upon which their judgment of reversal is based, in which we concur. The English authorities, to sustain the conclusion of the court of appeals, are referred to in the opinion, and also in the brief of the counsel for the defendant, in this court, to which may be added a decision in California (People vs. Harrington, 42 Cal. 165), referred to by the Attorney General. From all these cases, it seems very clear, that without some good reason, authorizing the criminal court to depart from the general practice in England and in this country, the shackles of the prisoner, when brought before the jury for trial, should be removed.

We have no doubt of the power of the criminal court, at the commencement, or during the progress of a trial, to make such orders as may be necessary to secure a quiet and safe one, but the facts stated by the court in this case, as shown by the record, that the prisoner had assaulted a person in court, about three months before the term at which he was tried, would hardly authorize the court to assume that, on his trial for life, he would be guilty of similar outrages. There must be some reason, based on the conduct of the prisoner, at the time of the trial, to authorize so important a right to be forfeited. When the court allows a prisoner to be brought before a jury with his hands chained in irons, and refuses, on his application, or that of his counsel, to order their removal, the jury must necessarily conceive a prejudice against the accused, as being in the opinion of the judge a dangerous man, and one not to be trusted, even under the surveillance of officers. Besides, the condition of the prisoner in shackles may, to some extent, deprive him of the free and calm use of all his faculties. We, therefore, concur in the opinion of the court of appeals on this point.

We have been unable to perceive, after a careful examination of the record touching that point, why the court refused to allow the contents of defendant's letter to Mrs. Broemser to be established by the witness called for that purpose, who proved their destruction, and who had read the letters. This occurred upon an examination of the second witness, introduced by the defendant to establish his defense, which was exclusively confined to the proof of insanity. Although we have been unable to find any case which decides precisely the question involved in this case, it seems to be generally conceded, that when the question is concerning the sanity or insanity of a person, his acts and declarations previous to, and up to the period, when his capacity for action or his responsibility for his acts is called in question, and even subsequently, are admissible to throw light on the condition of his intellect at the time such acts or declarations occur. His letters are certainly as valuable proof as his verbal declarations.

The case of Wright vs. Doe, dem. Tatham (7 Ad. & El. 317), contains a most elaborate discussion of this subject, both by the judges of the court of Queen's Bench, and in the Exchecquer Chamber. The question in that case was as to the capacity of a testator, and letters written to him, and found in his desk after his death, were offered as evidence of his sanity at the time he made his will, although written twenty or thirty years before his death. A majority of the judges in both courts did not consider the letters admissible, because, upon an examination of the testimony, they were of the opinion that sufficient evidence was not introduced to connect these letters with any act of the testator recognizing their reception. A minority of the judges in both courts, a separate opinion being delivered by each of the judges in both courts, thought the evidence sufficient of acts on the part of the testator, upon their reception, to authorize their introduction. All the judges agreed, that, without such connection being established between the letters and the action of the testator on their reception, the letters were inadmissible.

It will be observed that the letters in question were addressed to the person whose sanity was under consideration. In the present case, the letters proposed to be introduced were written by the defendant, whose sanity was called in question,...

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