State v. Meyer

Decision Date18 February 1922
Docket NumberNo. 23045.,23045.
Citation238 S.W. 457,293 Mo. 108
PartiesSTATE v. MEYER.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Appeal from Circuit Court, St. Charles County; Edgar B. Woolfolk, Judge.

Alvin Meyer was convicted of robbery in the first degree, and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary, and he appeals. Affirmed.

Convicted of robbery in the first degree, and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary, defendant appeals. The information charged that defendant, at St. Charles, Mo., on February 21, 1919, robbed one Frank J. Bull of $7. Two points only are urged as the basis of the appeal: (a) Appellant complains that he was prejudiced by the admission in evidence over his objections of a confession made by him on the ground that such confession was involuntary; (b) and that, having testified in his own behalf, the cross-examination went beyond statutory bounds.

Appellant and one Virgil Dale were apprehended shortly after the commission of the felony, upon suspicion that they committed it. Upon being searched a portion of the money taken from Bull was found in appellant's sock, and the balance accounted for in having been spent by them in one of the saloons. A mask was taken from appellant, and an extra cap from each of them. Upon these incriminating circumstances the sheriff took them to the jail where they were interrogated separately. They confessed, and it is claimed by them that a plea of guilty was to be followed by a parole. In accordance with this alleged agreement a plea of guilty was duly entered, whereupon the court assessed the punishment at five years each in the penitentiary. Appellant and his accomplice then procured counsel and filed a motion to set aside the judgment and sentence, on the ground that they had been misled and deceived in entering their pleas of guilty. They asserted that they had not obtained counsel, upon an agreement with the prosecutor and the sheriff that they were to be paroled. Testimony on the issue raised was heard by the court. The court overruled this motion, and an appeal was taken by both defendants. This court reversed the judgment and remanded the cause in each case upon the grounds:

"That defendant entered a plea of guilty under a misapprehension as to his rights in the premises and on account of being misled." State v. Dale, 282 Mo. 663, 222 S. W. 763; State v. Meyer (Mo. Sup.) 222 S. W. 765.

Upon the trial of this case appellant objected to any evidence of the alleged confession, upon the ground that same was involuntary. The objection was overruled, and with corroborating evidence the case was submitted to a jury, which returned the following verdict:

"We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of robbery in the first degree and we assess his punishment therefor at five years imprisonment in the penitentiary."

Other pertinent facts will appear in the course of the opinion.

Wm. Waye, Jr., of St. Charles, for appellant.

Jesse W. Barrett, Atty. Gen., and Henry Davis, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.

REEVES, C. (after stating the facts as above).

1. Appellant invokes the decision of this court on the former appeal as constituting the law of the case, and conclusive on the same facts in the second trial. We have a right to compare this record with the former one (State v. Powell, 266 Mo. 100, loc. cit. 106, 18C S. W. 851), and ascertain whether the same question was before the court in the first trial as in the second trial. The only question before the court when here first was: Had appellant been deceived or misled into entering a plea of guilty? This court found that he had been misled, and invoked the rule laid down in the case of State v. Stephens, 71 Mo. 535, to the effect that—

"Courts have always been accustomed to exercise a great degree of care in receiving pleas of guilty, in prosecutions for felonies, to see that the prisoner has not made his plea by being misled, or under misapprehension or the like."

It will thus be seen that in the former case no question was raised as to the voluntary or involuntary nature of the confession, but the question here was whether appellant had been misled in entering his plea of guilty. The question on this record is: Did appellant voluntarily implicate himself in the commission of the crime?

2. The trial court properly excluded the jury while he determined the preliminary question as to the admissibility of the confession made to the sheriff and prosecuting attorney. State v. Patterson, 73 Mo. 695.

Whether a confession is voluntary or involuntary depends upon the character, age, sex, disposition, and past experience of the accused (State v. Powell, 258 Mo. 239, 167 S. W. 559), and we should emphasize the rule to the effect that there was no impropriety in the officers interrogating appellant and his accomplice with respect to their participation in the crime (State v. Thomas, 250 Mo. 189, loc. cit. 210, 211, 157 S. W. 330). And, even if they used cunning, artifice, falsehood, and deception, still the confession would not be rendered inadmissible. State v. Phelps, 74 Mo. 128, loc. cit. 136; State v. Jones, 54 Mo. 478.

Appellant may have been misled into entering a plea of guilty, and yet he may have voluntarily confessed his part in the crime, in which event his extrajudicial statements could be used against him, and, if supported by independent proof of the corpus delicti, he may be convicted. State v. Cox, 264 Mo. 408, 175 S. W. 50.

If any promises were made to appellant after his confession, it would not render such confession involuntary and objectionable as evidence. Reverting to the record we find the following questions and answers propounded to and returned by appellant in his testimony:

"Q. Wasn't the statement made to you it would be in your best interest to be a man and tell the truth about it?

"A. The only thing that caused me to sign it was what you told me, you would see that I got out on parole, and that you were one of my friends, and that's all that caused me to sign it, if it hadn't been for that, I wouldn't have signed it."

And again, upon examination by the court:

"The Court: And agreed to plead guilty?

"A. Yes, sir; I was to receive a parole if signed the confession."

And upon cross-examination of Virgil Dale the following transpired:

"The Court: He said, `You boys just as well go on and plead guilty?'

"A. That was before this, after they got done questioning me and promised to get us out on parole where—if we pleaded guilty and I asked him if I could get out that night, and he said No, it was too late.

"Mr. Russell (counsel for defendant): Q. That's after you made this confession? A. Yes, sir."

There was other testimony tending to show that if promises were made to appellant it was after the alleged admissions, and in consideration...

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