State v. Sue

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation179 N.W. 972,191 Iowa 144
Docket Number32451
PartiesSTATE OF IOWA, Appellee, v. QUAN SUE, Appellant
Decision Date29 November 1920


Appeal from Story District Court.--E. M. MCCALL, Judge.

THE defendant appeals from a conviction of murder in the second degree. The material facts are stated in the opinion.


Bert B Welty and Fred E. Hansen, for appellant.

H. M Havner, Attorney General, and Harry Langland, County Attorney, for appellee.

STEVENS, J. LADD, EVANS, and PRESTON, JJ., concur. SALINGER, J., Weaver, C. J., (dissenting).



The body of Sing Lee, a Chinese laundryman, was found, shortly after noon on the 22d of February, 1917, in a basement occupied by him for a laundry and living apartments, under a two-story brick business block at Story City, Iowa, with a bullet wound in his left temple. Death had ensued some time during the night preceding. The defendant, Quan Sue, who is the cousin of deceased, arrived in Story City on the morning of February 24th, and later was charged with the murder of Sing Lee, and early in March was apprehended in Butte City, Montana, brought back to Iowa, and tried, the trial resulting in a conviction of murder in the second degree.

The vital questions presented by appellant upon this appeal make an extended statement and analysis of the evidence necessary. The basement, which had been occupied by Sing Lee for a number of years, was entered from the north by a stairway leading into a small hall, and from the rear by a stairway opening into the furnace- and coal-room of the Pioneer Store Company, which occupied the main floor of the building. A vacant room extended the full length of the building on the east side of the basement, and the furnace- and coal-room of the Store Company was located in the southwest corner. The portion of the basement occupied by Sing Lee is situated immediately north of this coal-room and west of the vacant room, and consisted of an office and workroom combined, washroom, dryingroom, bedroom and coal-room. There was a door opening from the furnace- and coal-room of the Store Company into the coal-room of Sing Lee, and from the latter room into the drying-room and bedroom, and from the bedroom into the office and workroom, and from the latter to the west into the washroom. There was also a door leading directly from the hall, entered from the north stairway, into the office and workroom.

The witnesses who discovered the body testified that they entered the bedroom from the rear of the basement. The bed on which the body was lying was in the southeast corner of the room, with the east side and head against the wall. There was also a table standing against the south wall, immediately west of the bed, and within reach of a person lying thereon. The body was lying with the head to the south, turned slightly to the east; the bed covers were neatly tucked around the chin, and extended over the shoulders. His arms and hands were lying across his body, underneath the covers. The bullet entered on the left side, near the temple, and pursued a slightly downward course through the head and out on the right side. Blood had flowed from the wound on the right side over the face and down onto the bed comforter. The bed was not disturbed. A cigar box sitting on the table contained a sack, in which there was a quantity of silver coin, and a roll of bills, wrapped in a piece of yellow paper bearing Chinese characters, was found on top of the covers near the foot of the bed. There were also some cartridges on the table, and a blue steel pistol, with one empty chamber, lying on the cement floor between the bed and the table. All of the doors leading into the bedroom were closed, but not latched, and the door leading from the hall at the north end of the basement into the workroom was locked, as was also the door leading from the same hall into the vacant room.

No evidence showing that defendant was in Story City on the night of February 21st, or that he had visited Sing Lee since in January preceding, was introduced. Defendant visited Sing Lee for about three weeks in December, 1916, and again for about two weeks in January, 1917, during which time he roomed at the home of Mrs. Swenson, in Story City. Shortly before defendant left Story City at the end of his first visit, he left an addressed envelope with A. C. Larson, proprietor of the Pioneer Store Company, with the request that, if Sing Lee got sick, or if anything was the matter with him, Larson would let him know at San Francisco, using the addressed envelope. Either at the time of this conversation or later, the defendant also gave Larson an envelope addressed to a Chinaman in Chicago, and requested that, if Sing Lee got sick, or anything happened to him, Larson would telegraph and write to both addresses. The defendant, at the time of the above conversation, stated to Larson that Sing Lee had a bad cough and was sick, and requested Larson to say nothing to Sing Lee about his condition, or about the request for information, should anything happen to him. The evidence tended to show that Sing Lee was a hard worker, and that he was generally in apparently good health. On the afternoon of February 22d, Larson sent telegrams and also letters, which he inclosed in the addressed envelopes furnished him by defendant, to San Francisco and Chicago. Upon his arrival in Story City on the morning of February 24th, the defendant went to the Pioneer Store and inquired of Larson concerning the death of Sing Lee, and during the day, stated to the mayor, in the presence of other citizens, that he received Larson's telegram at Chicago, about 10:30 P. M., February 22d; and at the coroner's inquest, that he received it at 9 o'clock; and to the county attorney, that he received it at 3:30 P. M., February 22d. He also explained his delay in coming to Story City by saying that he desired to conclude negotiations which he had pending for the purchase of a chop suey restaurant in Chicago.

The proprietor of the Douglas Hotel at Ames, Iowa, testified that a Chinaman registered at his hotel on the evening of February 12th, under the name of Moy Y. Fong, and was assigned a room. Both the proprietor and his wife testified that they saw him register. The same witness further testified that the same Chinaman registered at his hotel on the 20th of February, under the name of Mock Y. Fong. The proprietor of the Ames Hotel testified that a Chinaman registered on the 22d and 23d of February, under the name of Moy Y. Fong. The leaves of the hotel registers showing the signatures referred to were offered in evidence. Shortly before he left Story City on his second visit to Sing Lee, he wrote his Chicago address in a memorandum book handed him by the janitor of the building for that purpose, as follows: "Quan Sue, No. 261 W. 22d St., Chicago." On the evening of February 23d, with the assistance of the telegraph operator at Nevada, he prepared and filed the following telegram for transmission to Chicago:

"Feb. 23, Nevada, 1917: Dea Sing Pon, C/o Chee Wo Fong, No. 261 W. 22nd St., Chicago, Ill. If letter telegram for me don't send by mail. I arrive Chicago tomorrow 7 o'clock A. M. From Quan Sue."

The memorandum book and original telegram were offered in evidence, and the signatures bear a close resemblance.

The proprietor of the Douglas Hotel identified the defendant as the Chinaman who registered at his hotel on the evening of February 12th and February 20th. The clerk at the hotel testified, however, that, in his opinion, the defendant is not the Chinaman who registered on February 12th. The proprietor of the Ames Hotel testified that the defendant was the Chinaman who registered at his hotel on the dates given above. The baggageman at the Northwestern Station at Ames, the keeper of a cafe, the station master, and the station agent who sold him a ticket on February 21st for Randall, identified the defendant as a Chinaman they saw in Ames on that date. Mrs. Pulus, who kept the cafe, testified that she also saw him at her place of business on the morning of February 22d. He was further identified by the conductor and brakeman on the Northwestern train that left Ames on the evening of February 21st at 7:32, as a passenger from Ames to Randall, at which place he left the train. The baggageman at Ames testified that he had a package done up in black oilcloth, tied with a small rope, which was checked to Story City. Other witnesses testified to seeing him in Nevada on February 23d, and one witness, that he saw him alight from an east-bound Northwestern train at Nevada at 8:28 on the morning of February 22d. The station agent and his wife at the Rock Island station at Nevada testified that a Chinaman whom they identified as the defendant, purchased a ticket on the morning of February 23d for Des Moines. The housekeeper at the Ames Hotel and another witness identified the defendant as the Chinaman whom they saw at the hotel on February 23d and 24th. Nothing is shown of the whereabouts or movements of the defendant after he left the train at Randall, which is a small town a short distance north of Story City, on the evening of February 21st, until he appeared at the cafe in Ames on the morning of the 22d and asked for a cup of coffee. The defendant remained, and received his meals, in his room in a rooming house in Story City on the 25th of February, and, on the evening of the 26th, paid room rent for a week in advance, but left on the same day. He left a suit case and an oilcloth bundle in his room when he went away.

Frank Kirk, hotel clerk at Jewell, Iowa, identified the defendant as a Chinaman who came to the hotel on the morning of the 27th, and slept in a chair until about...

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1 cases
  • State v. Quan Sue
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 29, 1920

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