State v. Tillman

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore KING, C. J., MURPHY, ALCORN and COMLEY, JJ., and HOUSE; KING
Citation202 A.2d 494,152 Conn. 15
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Joseph TILLMAN. Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut
Decision Date07 July 1964

Page 494

202 A.2d 494
152 Conn. 15
STATE of Connecticut
v.
Joseph TILLMAN.
Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut.
July 7, 1964.

[152 Conn. 16]

Page 495

Emanuel Margolis and Saul Kwartin, Special Public Defenders, for appellant (defendant).

Otto J. Saur, State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were John F. McGowan and Joseph T. Gormley, Jr., Asst. State's Attys., for appellee (state).

Before [152 Conn. 15] KING, C. J., MURPHY, ALCORN and COMLEY, JJ., and HOUSE, Acting justice.

[152 Conn. 16] KING, Chief Justice.

The defendant was convicted, after a trial to the jury, of the crime of manslaughter in causing the death of his wife, Christine. It was the claim of the state that her death, which occurred between 9 and 9:30 o'clock in the evening of July 21, 1962, was caused by a fall to the ground from the rear porch of the third-floor tenement in which she and the defendant lived, and that the fall was the result of her having been thrown, pushed, or otherwise caused to fall, by the criminal act of the defendant.

A principal ground of the defendant's appeal involves claimed errors in the admission in evidence of certain statements made by the defendant in the nature of informal oral confessions. 1 Some were [152 Conn. 17] made, apparently within a few moments after the fall, to friends who were at the home at the time of the occurrence. Others were apparently made later to police officers. Error is also assigned in the admission of a written statement which was made to Dennis J. O'Connor, a detective in the Stamford police department.

Some of the confessions amounted to statements by the defendant that he had thrown his wife over the porch railing to the ground below; others, to statements that she had fallen in the course of a struggle with him on the porch.

The defendant objected to the admission into evidence of each of these confessions on the ground that the state had failed to offer sufficient preliminary proof of the corpus delicti to render any of the confessions admissible under the proper practice as outlined in cases such as State v. Doucette, 147 Conn. 95, 100, 157 A.2d 487, and in 7 Wigmore, Evidence (3d Ed.) § 2073, p. 404. See also State v. Washelesky, 81 Conn. 22, 30, 70 A. 62; notes, 127 A.L.R. 1130, 1141; 45 A.L.R.2d 1316, 1339.

We have carefully considered these evidential claims and the further claim that the totality of the evidence of the corpus delicti, independent of, and extrinsic to, the confessions, was insufficient to warrant the use of the confessions by the jury in reaching a verdict of guilty, under the rule laid down [152 Conn. 18] in cases such as State v. LaLouche, 116 Conn. 691, 693, 166 A. 252; State v. Skinner, 132 Conn. 163, 166, 43 A.2d 76; State v. Guastamachio, 137 Conn. 179, 182, 75 A.2d 429; and State v. Doucette, supra, 147 Conn. 99, 157 A.2d 487; and in 7 Wigmore, op. cit. § 2073, p. 405.

Page 496

This consideration in turn has led us to a reexamination of our particular corroboration rule. The rule in some form obtains in almost every state. Perkins, 'The Corpus Delicti of Murder,' 48 Va.L.Rev. 173, 178; 7 Wigmore, op. cit. § 2071. Probably most states define the term corpus delicti, as we have defined it in our cases such as State v. Doucette, supra, as meaning that the crime charged was committed by someone. 7 Wigmore, op. cit. § 2072, p. 402. This definition has led to complications and difficulties in the application of the corroboration rule and, in Wigmore's words, 'makes the rule * * * difficult for the jury to apply amid a complex mass of evidence, and tends to reduce the [corroboration] rule to a juggling-formula'. Ibid.; see also § 2073, p. 405. These complications and difficulties are reflected in a lack of harmony in the decisions as to the extent and nature of the corroborative or extrinsic evidence required, both as a prerequisite to the admission of a confession into evidence and as a prerequisite to a conviction where confessions have been introduced. See the collection of cases in 127 A.L.R. 1130 and 45 A.L.R.2d 1316, 1325-1330; 7 Wigmore, op. cit. § 2071; see also note, 'Proof of the Corpus Delicti Aliunde the Defendant's Confession,' 103 U.Pa.L.Rev. 638, 656, 659; 'The Corpus Delicti--Confession Problem,' 43 J.Crim.L., C. and P.S., p. 214. For example, the cases dealing with murder seem to apply a definition of corpus delicti at odds with the one stated above. Although the crime charged is not manslaughter but murder [152 Conn. 19] in some given degree, extrinsic evidence tending to prove an unlawful homicide is generally considered adequate under the corroboration rule. Perkins, op. cit...

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49 practice notes
  • State v. DelVecchio
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 13, 1983
    ...view of Professor Wigmore; 7 Wigmore, Evidence (Chadbourn Rev.) § 2073; whose definition of corpus delicti we adopted in State v. Tillman, 152 Conn. 15, 17, 202 A.2d 494 (1964). See also Brinker v. District of Columbia, 122 A.2d 768, 770 (D.C.1956); Commonwealth v. Smallwood, 497 Pa. 476, 4......
  • State v. Leniart, No. 36358.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • June 14, 2016
    ...rule was extensively discussed in State v. Doucette, 147 Conn. 95, 98–100, 157 A.2d 487 (1959), overruled in part by State v. Tillman, 152 Conn. 15, 20, 202 A.2d 494 (1964). The court in Doucette described the rule as follows: “[T]he corpus delicti [that is, that the crime charged has been ......
  • State v. Hafford, (SC 16089)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 7, 2000
    ...that there was no corroborating evidence that a sexual assault had occurred, and, therefore, the corpus delicti rule of State v. Tillman, 152 Conn. 15, 202 A.2d 494 (1964), barred the admission of his statement that he had forced the victim to perform oral sex on him. The three judge panel ......
  • State v. Ruth
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 10, 1980
    ...but must be accompanied by sufficient evidence of the corpus delicti. See State v. Doucette, supra, 99, 157 A.2d 487; State v. Tillman, 152 Conn. 15, 20, 202 A.2d 494 (1964). In Tillman, we adopted Professor Wigmore's definition of the term "corpus delicti," and stated: "The corpus delicti ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
49 cases
  • State v. DelVecchio
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 13, 1983
    ...view of Professor Wigmore; 7 Wigmore, Evidence (Chadbourn Rev.) § 2073; whose definition of corpus delicti we adopted in State v. Tillman, 152 Conn. 15, 17, 202 A.2d 494 (1964). See also Brinker v. District of Columbia, 122 A.2d 768, 770 (D.C.1956); Commonwealth v. Smallwood, 497 Pa. 476, 4......
  • State v. Leniart, No. 36358.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • June 14, 2016
    ...rule was extensively discussed in State v. Doucette, 147 Conn. 95, 98–100, 157 A.2d 487 (1959), overruled in part by State v. Tillman, 152 Conn. 15, 20, 202 A.2d 494 (1964). The court in Doucette described the rule as follows: “[T]he corpus delicti [that is, that the crime charged has been ......
  • State v. Hafford, (SC 16089)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 7, 2000
    ...that there was no corroborating evidence that a sexual assault had occurred, and, therefore, the corpus delicti rule of State v. Tillman, 152 Conn. 15, 202 A.2d 494 (1964), barred the admission of his statement that he had forced the victim to perform oral sex on him. The three judge panel ......
  • State v. Ruth
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 10, 1980
    ...but must be accompanied by sufficient evidence of the corpus delicti. See State v. Doucette, supra, 99, 157 A.2d 487; State v. Tillman, 152 Conn. 15, 20, 202 A.2d 494 (1964). In Tillman, we adopted Professor Wigmore's definition of the term "corpus delicti," and stated: "The corpus delicti ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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