State v. Mayle

Decision Date18 March 1930
Docket Number6152.
Citation152 S.E. 633,108 W.Va. 681
PartiesSTATE v. MAYLE.
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court

Submitted March 11, 1930.

Syllabus by the Court.

A case in which, under the circumstances, a written confession, made by the prisoner after he had been admonished by an officer that it was best to tell the truth, was properly admitted in evidence.

Additional Syllabus by Editorial Staff.

In determining question as to admission of confessions, trial court has a wide discretion.

Discretion of trial court relative to admission of confessions will not ordinarily be disturbed on review, and not in any event unless appellate court can say that trial court was plainly wrong.

Where one count of indictment was good and motion to quash and verdict are general, it was not necessary that appellate court examine the other two counts to determine sufficiency of indictment.

Error to Circuit Court, Taylor County.

Howard Mayle was convicted on the charge of breaking and entering a certain chicken house and stealing therefrom certain chickens, and he brings error.


W Bruce Talbott and E. Wayne Talbott, both of Philippi, for plaintiff in error.

Howard B. Lee, Atty. Gen., and W. Elliott Nefflen, Asst. Atty. Gen for the State.


Howard Mayle, Palace Parsons, and Ted Dalton were jointly indicted in the circuit court of Taylor county on the charge of breaking and entering a certain chicken house and stealing therefrom twenty-one chickens. Mayle, defendant herein, who was tried separately, convicted, and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary, brings error.

According to the State's theory, which is amply supported by her witnesses and a written confession, it appears that the defendant and his companions, having a market in view, set about to secure a number of chickens. After visiting a nearby dwelling, the occupants of which were temporarily absent, and procuring several sacks, the trio proceeded to a chicken house on a neighboring farm, tore out a screen, and removed and cut off the heads of twenty-one chickens; seven being placed in each of two sacks and six in a third. The chickens were taken to the dwelling heretofore mentioned and dressed for market. Early the following morning the boys started to Grafton. After passing the property on which the chicken house, from which the chickens had been taken, was located, they hid their produce along the river bank, and went into town to see if their prospective customer still wanted it. Parsons then took a taxi back for the chickens; he was stopped by officers, who had been called to the scene on the discovery of the theft, and asked where he was going. He then took them to the point where the chickens were concealed. Soon thereafter defendant and Dalton were arrested in Grafton. Some time during the afternoon the defendant confessed to the theft, and later the confession was written out on a typewriter, sworn to, and signed by the defendant. On the trial, however, defendant offered evidence to the effect that he had killed four of his own chickens and had gone over to spend the night with Parsons, who killed sixteen of his; and that, on the following morning, the three had left for Grafton to sell the same.

The chief assignment of error goes to the introduction of the written confession, which corroborates the state's evidence in every particular. Whether it was properly admitted becomes the crux of the case.

The general rule is that a confession cannot be given in evidence if it appears that it was obtained from the party by some inducement of a worldly or temporal character in the nature of a threat or promise of benefit, held out to him in respect of his escape from the consequences of the offense, or the mitigation of the punishment, by a person in authority, or with the apparent sanction of such a person. State v. Zaccario, 100 W.Va. 36, 129 S.E. 763. It devolves upon the trial court in the first instance before admitting it, to determine whether such confession has been voluntarily made, and the burden is on the state to show to the satisfaction of the court facts justifying the admission of such confession; and upon its admission the jury are then the final judges of the weight and effect that should be given such confession in connection with all other evidence in the case as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant. State v. Richards, 101 W.Va. 136, 132 S.E. 375, 377. As the court said in that case: "For in the end the question of the weight and sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the truth and verity of the alleged confession passes to the jury, who become thereby the final triers of the facts, and of the weight they will attach to such confession." It is true that the prisoner has stated that he would not have made this confession if he had not been induced to do so by threats and acts of violence on the part of the officers. The officers all unite in denying the use of any threats or violence. Both court and jury have determined this fact contrary to the prisoner's contention. The fact that such confession was made to one in authority does not, of itself, make the confession inadmissible, although this fact may be considered in determining whether or not it was voluntarily made. While denying that any force was used by the officers, or that they had held out any inducement to the prisoner, one of the members of the state department of public safety says that he did state to the defendant that "it was best to tell the truth." Did this render the confession inadmissible? There are authorities which in a measure so hold because of the presumption that, under all the circumstances of the particular case, the party in making them was influenced by the admonition made. However, there is a great line of cases holding to the contrary. The latter proceed on the theory that where the prisoner is advised to tell the truth, it cannot be supposed that he would be induced thereby to confess to a crime of which he...

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