State v. Smith

Citation153 Minn. 167
Decision Date29 September 1922
Docket NumberNo. 22,809.,22,809.
CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)

Defendant was indicted by the grand jury of Ramsey county charged with the crime of subornation of perjury, tried in the district court for that county before Catlin, J., and a jury and found guilty as charged in the indictment. From an order denying his motion for a new trial, defendant appealed. Affirmed.

S. J. Levy, T. J. Newman, O. G. Wondra and L. C. Smith, for appellant.

Clifford L. Hilton, Attorney General, and R. D. O'Brien, for respondent.


The defendant was convicted of the crime of subornation of perjury and appeals from an order denying a new trial.

The record is lengthy as the trial occupied two weeks, and it may conduce to brevity and clearness to mention first some of the undisputed facts in the order in which they occurred.

In the latter part of August, 1920, Marguerette Z. Craighead employed the Sheridan, Sweeney & Kerst Detective Agency to shadow her husband, A. W. Craighead, and an operator named Lawrence E. Tatro was detailed to perform this service.

Tatro found Craighead and William E. Stonebraker riding together in an automobile on the afternoon of Saturday, August 28, 1920, and trailed them to the St. Michael Apartments in the city of St. Paul, and so reported to Mrs. Craighead late that evening. On Sunday, August 29, 1920, Craighead, Stonebraker and Stonebraker's father, mother and aunt started for the lakes near Alexandria for an outing and drove in the Stonebraker automobile from St. Paul to Sauk Center, more than 100 miles distant, where they remained Sunday night. When Tatro undertook to resume his duties on Sunday, he was unable to find either Craighead or Stonebraker. He hired a taxicab and drove about the city and to White Bear Lake and back, but failed to find any trace of them. Notwithstanding this, he went to the office of the detective agency Monday morning and reported to Sheridan, the manager, that he had shadowed Craighead and Stonebraker throughout the entire day and evening of Sunday, and pretended to describe their movements and doings in detail. Among other things he stated that they drove in an automobile from the city of St. Paul to White Bear Lake, and that they met two women at a cottage at the lake whom they brought back to Craighead's apartment in the city of St. Paul, where the four remained for some hours. His entire story concerning Craighead and Stonebraker was a pure fabrication, for he had not seen either of them at any time on Sunday and knew nothing of their movements or doings. Sheridan notified Mrs. Craighead of Tatro's report, and she, accompanied by her sister, went to his office, where Tatro's story was repeated to her. At her instance Tatro accompanied her and her sister to the office of the assistant city attorney and repeated the story to him.

An action for divorce brought by Eleanor Stonebraker against William E. Stonebraker in which defendant Smith was attorney for the plaintiff came on for trial November 18, 1920. On information given by Mrs. Craighead, Smith subpoenaed Tatro as a witness. Tatro was not known to Mrs. Stonebraker, had not been employed by her, and apparently knew nothing of her or of her affairs until the supoena was served on him. He appeared in obedience to the subpoena, was sworn as a witness and told the same story on the witness stand which he had related in August to Sheridan, Mrs. Craighead and the assistant city attorney. In the latter part of October, 1920, A. W. Craighead brought an action for divorce against his wife, Marguerette Z. Craighead, and Smith defended this action as her attorney. It came on for trial in the latter part of February, 1921, and Smith called Tatro as a witness who repeated in substance the story he had told in the Stonebraker case, but added the statement that after Craighead, Stonebraker and the two women had gone to Craighead's apartment, Craighead went away alone and returned an hour or so later.

On March 11, 1921, Tatro was indicted for perjury in his testimony given on November 18, 1920, at the trial of the Stonebraker case, and on March 14, 1921, Smith appeared as his attorney and entered a plea of not guilty, for him. He was placed in jail, but on the morning of March 15, 1921, was released on bail procured by Smith. A new trial had been granted in the Stonebraker case and it came on for trial the second time on March 15, 1921, the day on which Tatro was released on bail. At this trial Smith again called Tatro as a witness and he repeated in substance the story he had told at the Craighead trial. On April 23, 1921, Tatro was again indicted for the crime of perjury committed at this second trial of the Stonebraker case, and on April 25, 1921, entered a plea of guilty thereto, was sentenced to the state prison and is serving his term. On June 10, 1921, defendant Smith and Marguerette Z. Craighead were jointly indicted for subornation of perjury in procuring Tatro to give the perjured testimony at the second trial of the Stonebraker case. Smith was tried separately and the jury returned a verdict of guilty. The term defendant when used hereafter will refer to him.

Defendant contends that the verdict is not sustained by the evidence. That Tatro's entire testimony concerning the movements and doings of Stonebraker and Craighead on Sunday, August 20, 1920, was false was not controverted at the trial and stands admitted. The ultimate question of fact in dispute was whether the defendant procured Tatro to give this false testimony knowing it to be false. He stoutly insists that he did not know it to be false at the time it was given, and was assured by Tatro it was true.

At the trial Tatro was brought from the state prison and testified to the effect that on the morning of November 18, 1920, immediately after he was subpoenaed and before he had testified at the first trial of the Stonebraker case, he went to defendant's office, where he had an interview with defendant and Mrs. Craighead, in which he informed defendant that the story which he had told concerning Stonebraker and Craighead was not true, and objected to testifying to it for fear he would be arrested, and that defendant and Mrs. Craighead persuaded him to give the false testimony to aid Mrs. Stonebraker in securing the custody of her young child. He also testified that at the Craighead trial he changed his former story by adding the statement that Craighead had left the apartment for a time Sunday afternoon, and that he did this at defendant's suggestion and because defendant told him a witness had been found who would testify that Craighead was at her house late Sunday afternoon and thereby corroborate his testimony that Craighead was in the city of St. Paul. Tatro also testified to the effect that on March 15, 1921, he told defendant he was unwilling to testify at the second Stonebraker trial for fear he would be indicted again, but was induced to do so by defendant. If the testimony given by Tatro at the trial of the present case be true, defendant induced him to give the perjured testimony charged in the present indictment with full knowledge that it was false.

The claim of the prosecution that defendant induced Tatro to give the perjured testimony at the second trial of the Stonebraker case knowing it to be false, does not rest wholly on the testimony of Tatro.

Defendant received his information concerning Tatro and Tatro's story from Mrs. Craighead. Thomas P. Sheridan, manager of the detective agency, testified that when he reported Tatro's story to Mrs. Craighead, in his private office, on August 30, 1920, she pronounced it untrue because Tatro had been at her house for expense money at the time he said he was trailing Craighead and Stonebraker at White Bear Lake; that she objected to their bill for services for that reason; that she asked him to call her attorney, the defendant, on the telephone; that he called defendant on the telephone, and, when a man who said he was Mr. Smith answered, turned the telephone over to her; and that she repeated Tatro's story over the telephone with the statement that it could not be true as he was at her house at the time he claimed to have been at White Bear. James J. Kerst and Henry W. Bergkeller, of the detective agency, testified that when she came out of Sheridan's office she stated that Tatro's story was absolutely false and that she would have to see her attorney, Mr. Smith, before paying their bill.

Tatro's wife testified that she accompanied her husband to defendant's office shortly before the Craighead trial and heard defendant ask him to "leave" Mr. Craighead out of the house for a while on Sunday afternoon, August 29, and she later stated that her husband replied: "I can't very well, I didn't let him out on the Stonebraker trial." She also testified that she was at defendant's office when her husband was released from jail the morning that the second trial of the Stonebraker case began, and that he objected to testifying at the second trial for fear he would be indicted again, and that defendant insisted that he must testify. Defendant tried the Stonebraker case for Mrs. Stonebraker at both trials and also tried the Craighead case for Mrs. Craighead. He knew that, at the first trial of the Stonebraker case, Craighead, Stonebraker and Stonebraker's father, mother and aunt, each testified that the five drove from St. Paul to Sauk Center in the Stonebraker automobile on Sunday, August 29, 1920, and stopped at the Lee Hotel in Sauk Center that night; that they were corroborated by the hotel register and the testimony of the hotel proprietor, and in part by the testimony of witnesses who saw the party in the automobile and talked with them in St. Paul as they were starting on their trip. If this testimony or any part of it was true, Tatro's was false. Before the second trial of the Stonebraker case Tatro was indicted for giving...

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