State v. Riggs

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana
Citation61 Mont. 25
Docket NumberNo. 4839.,4839.
PartiesSTATE v. RIGGS.
Decision Date10 October 1921

61 Mont. 25


No. 4839.

Supreme Court of Montana.

Oct. 10, 1921.

Appeal from District Court, Yellowstone County; Charles A. Taylor, Judge.

George T. Riggs was convicted of murder in the first degree, and appeals. Reversed and remanded, with order to dismiss.

Brantly, C. J., and Reynolds, J., dissenting.

H. C. Crippen, and Nichols & Wilson, all of Billings, for appellant.

L. A. Foot, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.


On the night of March 22, 1918, Matie Riggs, wife of the defendant, was found dead on the kitchen floor of her home. Resulting therefrom, the defendant was charged by information filed in Yellowstone county with the crime of murder in the first degree. This is the second time this case has been considered by this court on appeal. On the first appeal, which was taken from a judgment imposing the death penalty, and from an order denying motion for a new trial, the cause was by controlling opinion remanded for new trial, because of insufficiencyof the evidence. State v. Riggs, 56 Mont. 393, 185 Pac. 165. From a perusal of the facts recited in the former decision, it would appear that the evidence adduced on the second trial was not materially different from the first. The second trial resulted in a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree, wherein defendant's punishment was fixed at life imprisonment. The case is now before us as a result of the second trial and the verdict and judgment rendered and entered therein, the appeal being from the judgment and order denying defendant's motion for a new trial.

Ten errors are specified as reason for reversal, but in our view only one is necessary for consideration in order to make complete and satisfactory disposition of the appeal, namely: Is the evidence sufficient to sustain the verdict and judgment?

It appears that the defendant and his wife intermarried at Billings, Montana, in 1901, the wife at that time having an infant child, a girl, named Opal. Nine children were born of the marriage, seven of whom were living at the time of the wife's death. At that time Opal, defendant's stepdaughter, was 18 years of age, and of the living children of the marriage, Grace was 15, Chester 13, Bertha 12, Ida 5, Calvin 3, Eddie and Roy being younger than Chester, and older than Calvin. At the time of her death, the wife was 39 years of age, and apparently in good physical condition, and the defendant was 47. The defendant, his wife and children, including Opal, were living, and for 7 years had lived, on a 40-acre unit of the “Huntley Reclamation Project” about six miles from the town of Huntley, in Yellowstone county. Their place of abode consisted of a two-story frame house of three rooms. There they lived until the eventful night in March, 1918, and by thrift and industry had accumulated considerable property, the wife at all times doing her full part about the home and farm. On the ground floor there were two rooms, one of which was used as a kitchen and dining room combined, and the other as a living room wherein the wife of the defendant had her bed and slept. The second story comprised one large bedroom, 19 feet 4 1/2 inches east to west, by 17 feet 4 1/2 inches north to south, located immediately over the living room, in which second story room the defendant and the children slept in four separate beds. The second story was reached by a stairway 3 feet 1 inch in width, running up the west inside wall of the living room, entrance to which stairway was through a doorway located in the southwest corner of the living room. This door was used to shut off the stairway and the sleeping quarters upstairs from the ground floor rooms. At the foot of the stairway and immediately opposite the entrance thereto, was a window in the west side wall of the house, 24 inches wide and 54 inches high. There was no closure of the stairway on the second floor. The two-story portion of the house was covered by a gable roof, the kitchen being in a leanto on the south. The kitchen was connected with the living room by a panel door. There were two windows in the bedroom upstairs, one on the east end and the other on the west, both being of the same dimensions, 24 inches by 54 inches, the west window being located directly over the stairway. Such east window was almost directly over a similar window in the living room. Hog wire was attached to the east side of the house up to the second story window, and had been there in place for a long while, used for the training of vines. The dimensions of the kitchen were east to west 19 feet 3 inches and north to south 11 feet 9 inches. In the southwest corner of the kitchen the pantry was located, a room 4 feet 9 inches long by 6 feet 7 inches in width. The range for cooking purposes was in the kitchen at the northeast corner of the pantry, and the nearest point of such range from the door leading into the living room was 7 feet 3 inches. To the southeast corner of the kitchen there was a dining table and a bench used to sit at the table when eating. Immediately to the rear of the range, to the west and north of the pantry, was a cupboard in the kitchen, and by it to the north, on the west side of the kitchen there was a wash bench. On the wash bench was a one gallon coal oil can, partially filled used to kindle fires and fill the lamps. It was in the place where generally kept. There was an oil lamp on the kitchen table. The east second story bedroom window was 12 feet 2 inches from the ground. Several matches were found strewn over the top of the range.

The defendant usually slept alone in a bed in the second story bedroom, located in the southeast corner of the room, furthest removed from the top of the stairway. Not infrequently he would take the youngest child, Calvin, to bed with him, although most of the time Calvin would sleep downstairs with his mother. The night in question the defendant slept in the bed usually occupied by him, and took Calvin to bed with him. Opal slept in a bed with Eddie on the south side of the room, just west of the bed occupied by the defendant; Gracie, Bertha, and Ida occupied a bed on the north side of the room, near the top of the stairway, in the northwest corner thereof, and Chester and Roy slept in a bed in the northeast corner of the room. The bed in which the wife slept was a standard size double bed in the southeast corner of the living room, directly across that room from the stairway entrance, a distance of 11 feet 2 inches, and the head of the bed nearest the door leading into the kitchen was 20 inches. From the knob side of the stairway door to the center of the door leading to the kitchen was a distance of 6 feet 9 inches. There was a well containing water with pump attached, on the west side of the house 16 feet therefrom, and at a distance of 31 feet south of the kitchen, the root house, facing west, was located.

The wife was insured for $1,000, and the house and contents were insured for like amount. The defendant had been negotiating with a neighbor, Looney Stockton, to buy the latter's farm adjoining that owned by the defendant, for the sum of $4,000. On the day before Mrs. Rigg's death, the defendant told Stockton he would buy the latter's farm, provided he (the defendant) could get the money, and on that day the defendant told Stockton he would endeavor to secure a loan on both places, and on the same day the defendant had spoken to S. E. Dove, a banker at Huntley, about getting the money. He also proposed trying to obtain a federal loan, and requested Mr. Stockton to go down to Osborn to see Mr. Bowman about securing the amount required on the security of both farms.

The defendant and his wife had quarreled from time to time, principally over the disciplining of Opal, the oldest child, the defendant's stepdaughter. At the time of her death, the deceased was clothed in a suit of fleece lined cotton underwear, and over that an outing flannel nightgown, fleeced on both sides, and both garments were highly inflammable. She was found lying dead and badly burned about the body, on the bare floor of the kitchen between the cooking stove and the dining table. There was evidence of three quarrels between the defendant and his wife, widely separated in point of time, but only Mrs. Smith and Opal, both witnesses being hostile to the defendant, remember about any quarrel of any seriousness, and there is no evidence of any threat of any character ever being made by the defendant against his wife. Neither Grace nor Chester know anything of any serious quarrels between their mother and father, and they did not seem to attach any importance to any disagreement between them. All agree that on the evening of the tragedy they were friendly and everything about the house was peaceful. There had been no quarrel between the defendant and his wife for more than a month prior to that time. After supper the evening chores were done outside of the house by the defendant, Opal, and Chester. Upon the completion thereof, they all returned into the house. At that time, which was about 8 o'clock in the evening, the mother and the little child, Calvin, had retired, Calvin being in the bed in the living room with his mother. It was the custom of the mother to retire quite early. The smaller children, as usual, undressed in the kitchen and their clothing was left there, either on the floor or on a chair, and some thereof was partially burned that night. The defendant sat by the kitchen table reading a paper, and some of the children were working at their school lessons, Grace, Chester, Bertha, Eddie, and Roy being at that time attending school. Chester was working on the dining room table at arithmetic, and was the last to go to bed that night. He retired about one-half hour later than his father--after 9 o'clock. The defendant retired about 8:30. Opal says she was asleep when her father and Chester came to bed. As was his custom, the defendant that night took his shoes off in the kitchen,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
39 cases
  • State v. Hansen, 97-342.
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • October 21, 1999
    ... ... See State v. Pepo (1900), 23 Mont. 473, 59 P. 721; State v. Calder (1900), 23 Mont. 504, 59 P. 903; State v. Nordall (1909), 38 Mont. 327, 99 P. 960; State v. Riggs (1921), 61 Mont. 25, 201 P. 272; State v. Smith (1922), 65 Mont. 458, 211 P. 208; State v. Kindle (1924), 71 Mont. 58, 227 P. 65; State v. Cates (1934), 97 Mont. 173, 33 P.2d 578. Evidence of the third element, the identity of the doer of the crime, was not part of the corpus delicti. "In ... ...
  • Gold v. United States, 12352.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • October 8, 1956
    ... ... the conviction by an equally divided vote and reserving for each judge the right to file a "statement of his vote and his reasons." I choose to state my views because important issues vitally affecting the administration of justice are involved ...         As a condition for making the ... Riggs, 1921, 61 Mont. 25, 53-55, 201 P. 272, 281. There must be evidence of a direct nature presented by one witness before circumstantial evidence may ... ...
  • State v. Espelin
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • February 16, 1938
    ... ... Convictions may not be founded upon ... conjectures, however shrewd, nor upon probabilities, however ... strong. (State v. Lund, 93 Mont. 169, 18 P.2d 603; ... State v. Woolsey, 80 Mont. 141, 259 P. 826; ... [76 P.2d 633.] ... State v. Taylor, 51 Mont. 387, 153 P. 275; State ... v. Riggs, 61 Mont. 25, 201 P. 272); but only upon ... evidence which establishes the guilt of the defendant beyond ... a reasonable doubt, i. e., upon proof such as logically ... compels the conviction that the charge is true (State v ... Kerrigan, 87 Mont. 396, 287 P. 942; State v ... Mullins, 55 ... ...
  • State v. Peschon, 9599
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • April 30, 1957
    ... ... 275, but only upon evidence which establishes the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, that is, upon proof such as to logically compel the conviction that the charge is true. State v. Mullins, supra; State v. Postal Telegraph Cable Co., 53 Mont. 104, 161 P. 953; State v. Riggs, 56 Mont. 393, 185 P. 165; State v. Riggs, 61 Mont. 25, 201 P. 272; State v. Gilbert, 126 Mont. 171, 246 P.2d 814, 816 ...         In all of the above-cited decisions this court has recognized and applied the rule that unless the circumstantial evidence fully meets the above tests ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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