State v. Truster

Decision Date14 March 1960
Docket NumberNo. 2,No. 47626,47626,2
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Chrissie TRUSTER, Appellant
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Dillard & Grossenheider, J. W. Grossenheider, Lebanon, for appellant.

John M. Dalton, Atty. Gen., Robert E. Hogan, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent.

BOHLING, Commissioner.

Chrissie Truster was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for the murder in the second degree of Newlin Truster, her husband, Sections 559.020, 559.030 RSMo 1949, V.A.M.S. She contends in her brief that the court erred in failing to sustain her motions for judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's case and at the close of all the evidence; in admitting certain testimony and certain exhibits in evidence, and in the giving of an instruction.

Appellant's position is that the court erred in overruling her motions for judgment of acquittal because, independent of extrajudicial admissions made by appellant and even with said admissions, the State failed to prove the corpus delicti and, in addition, failed to prove appellant's criminal agency. Many cases are cited. Consult Supreme Court Rule 1.08(a)(3), 42 V.A.M.S.

Appellant stresses observations to the following effect: "Corpus delicti cannot be said to be established until it has been proved that the death was not self-inflicted, nor due to natural causes or accident. And, although it is not essential to the proof of the corpus delicti that the criminal agency of the accused be shown, yet, in order to convict an accused, it is necessary to prove his (criminal) agency additionally to the corpus delicti." State v. Morris, Mo., 307 S.W.2d 667, 673, and cases cited. State v. Lyle, 353 Mo. 386, 182 S.W.2d 530, 532[1, 2] (but see ). In appellant's cases of State v. Gordon, 199 Mo. 561, 593, 98 S.W. 39, 48, and State v. Nesenhener, 164 Mo. 461, 470, 65 S.W. 230, 232, we are directed to no admissions on the part of the accused and the court considered there was no sufficient evidence on which to predicate the accused's criminal agency. In State v. Bowman, 294 Mo. 245, 243 S.W. 110, 117, aside from the accused's confession there was no evidence that the deceased was dead.

The sufficiency of evidence of the corpus delicti for the admission of extrajudicial admissions is reviewed in State v. McQuinn 361 Mo. 631, 235 S.W.2d 396[1-5], the court stating in part: 'In murder, the corpus delicti consists of two elements: (1) The death of the person alleged to have been murdered, and (2) the criminal agency of someone other than deceased causing the death.' The court then mentions that State v. Skibiski, 245 Mo. 459, 463, 150 S.W. 1038, 1039, is a leading case. The Skibiski case states: 'The rule in this state has long been that full proof of the corpus delicti, independently of the confession, is not required. If there is evidence of corroborating circumstances which tend to prove the corpus delicti and correspond with the circumstances related in the confession, both the circumstances and the confession may be considered in determining whether the corpus delicti is sufficiently proved in a given case. * * * A like, or even more liberal rule prevails in other jurisdictions. * * *' Citations omitted. The McQuinn case also sets forth a quotation to like effect from State v. Morro, 313 Mo. 98, 108, 281 S.W. 720, 722, and the following from State v. Thompson, Banc, 333 Mo. 1069, 1080, 64 S.W.2d 277, 282: '* * * [W]hat seemed to be only slight corroborating facts have been held sufficient.' See, among others, State v. Arndt, Mo., 143 S.W.2d 286; State v. Haun, Mo., 324 S.W.2d 679, 681; State v. Francies, Mo., 295 S.W.2d 8, 12[6, 7]; State v. Falbo, Mo., 333 S.W.2d 279.

Any error in overruling appellant's motion at the close of the State's case was waived by appellant's introduction of evidence in her own behalf. State v. Archer, Mo., 328 S.W.2d 661, 665; State v. Vincent, Mo., 321 S.W.2d 439, 440; State v. Bigley, Mo., 247 S.W. 169, 171.

In passing on the sufficiency of the evidence to make a case the probative evidence favorable to the State is taken as true, as are all reasonable inferences to be deduced therefrom, and all evidence and inferences contrary thereto are disregarded. The Archer , and Vincent cases, supra; State v. Jones, 363 Mo. 998, 255 S.W.2d 801, 804. It is the duty of a jury to determine the issues under all the evidence and an accused, by putting on evidence, takes the chance of aiding the State's case. The Bigley case, supra; State v. Meadows, 330 Mo. 1020, 51 S.W.2d 1033, 1036.

Appellant refused to consent to an autopsy when the request was made on the evening of Mr. Truster's death. No autopsy was performed and this has resulted in a considerably greater detail of the facts than otherwise would have been required.

Mr. and Mrs. Truster, at the time of his death, had been married twenty-eight years. Each was forty-nine years old. Three of their six children are living, and two were witnesses for the defense. Mr. and Mrs. Truster, with their daughter, Shirley Ann, who was described as afflicted and incapable of testifying, lived on a farm about four miles west of Hartville in Wright County. Pam Martin, a four year old granddaughter, was visiting them. The Truster back porch faces east, is approximately eighteen inches above the ground, and has two concrete steps to the ground. A hard surfaced walk runs east to a drive. A door leads from the kitchen onto the screened-in porch, which has a screen door with a spring to close it.

Mr. and Mrs. Jess Young lived close enough to talk back and forth with the Trusters. A little after 7:00 a. m. November 12, 1958, Mrs. Young was in her yard and heard a gunshot coming from the direction of the Truster home. She testified she knew the difference between the sound of a shotgun and a rifle and the shot sounded like a '22 gun.' In about twenty or thirty minutes appellant came to the house and told her 'Newlin had been shot.'

Mr. Young accompanied appellant to her home. Appellant told him 'Well, I don't think there's any use. I believe he's gone anyway.' He didn't notice appellant crying. The Trusters had not finished milking. Mr. Truster was dressed in gray coveralls. He was lying prone on the ground, face down, with his feet toward the sidewalk and approximately eight feet south of the steps to the porch. He was bleeding from the mouth, and there was a considerable sized spot of blood on the ground and on leather gloves, under his body. An ambulance was called. John Simpson and Warren Simpson, of a funeral home in Hartville, took Mr. Truster to Dr. F. E. Worthy, an osteopathic physician, about 8:00 or 8:15 a. m. who testified Mr. Truster had been dead for at least sixty or seventy-five minutes. The body was taken to the funeral home.

Sheriff James Baker and Coroner Frank Grable of Wright County went to the Truster home after viewing the body at the funeral home, and testified that, in addition to the blood on the ground, there were two or three spots of blood on the porch, and a drop or two on the concrete steps. Sheriff Baker testified that a close inspection of the back porch disclosed no place where a bullet had entered through the screen or screen door.

There were holes and blood on the right sleeve of Mr. Truster's coveralls which matched holes in the biceps of his right arm. There was also a hole, adjacent to his inside right arm wound, slightly forward of the center of the right side of his body, leading into his chest cavity. The wounds were described as very small, about the size of a lead pencil, smooth, round in nature, depressed in, and showed no indication of anything having been pulled from the wounds. John Simpson, the undertaker, probed the wounds with a sixteen to eighteen inch trocar to properly prepare the body, using slightly more than half of the length of the trocar in doing so, and stated the wound extended three to five inches inside the chest cavity and in the direction of the left shoulder blade. There were no other marks or bruises on the body.

Dr. Worthy testified that such a wound would produce death.

A .22 caliber High Standard make revolver, having a six-inch barrel, was identified as appellant's gun, given her by her son, and marked State's Exhibit C. This gun and five live and one empty .22 caliber long range shells, State's Exhibit B, were obtained by Sheriff Baker at the Truster home the night of Mr. Truster's death.

Sheriff Baker testified that State's Exhibit C, the revolver, had a safety and that one had to pull the hammer 'way back' before it passed the safety, and it was his opinion it would not 'go off accidentally', and if dropped on a concrete porch it would not 'jar off' without something touching the trigger.

The testimony of Coroner Grable and Sheriff Baker was that the wound on Mr. Truster's body, arm and chest, had been made by a bullet about the size of a .22 caliber bullet.

A careful examination of Mr. Truster's clothing disclosed no powder burns.

Coroner Grable testified there were no objects or instruments on the porch or ground that would cause the wounds received by Mr. Truster.

Mr. Truster was a healthy, husky man, of a good disposition, not inclined to quarrel. He was right-handed. He was dead within a few seconds or minutes after being shot.

The foregoing was more than sufficient evidence of the corpus delicti for the admission of appellant's extrajudicial statements or confessions in evidence.

Appellant made admissions to Bill Truster, decedent's brother, and his wife at their home that she shot her husband because she didn't want him to go to work that morning. Appellant also made admissions on several occasions to Sheriff Baker, including two occasions when she called at his home. From appellant's statements, aided by her testimony, the jury could find the following facts: Mr. Truster told her while they were in the barn milking...

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    • April 16, 1964
    ...the imposition of procedures possibly more serious than the charge of common assault--but that is not this case. 6 State v. Truster, Mo., 334 S.W.2d 104; State v. Emrich, Mo., 250 S.W.2d 718, 725; State v. Bowman, Mo., 12 S.W.2d 51; State v. Miller, 318 Mo. 581, 300 S.W. 765; see cases in W......
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    • July 16, 1962 deduced therefrom, and all evidence and inferences contrary thereto are disregarded. See McMillian, supra, and State v. Truster, Mo., 334 S.W.2d 104, "In a homicide case the corpus delicti consists of two elements, first, the death of a human being and, second, the criminal agency of ano......
  • State v. Norris, 10422
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    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • February 13, 1979
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