State v. Watts, 18599

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtG. BADGER BAKER; LEWIS, Acting C.J., BUSSEY and BRAILSFORD, JJ., and LIONEL K. LEGGE
Citation152 S.E.2d 684,249 S.C. 80
PartiesThe STATE, Resondent, v. Pauline WATTS, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 18599,18599
Decision Date03 February 1967

Page 684

152 S.E.2d 684
249 S.C. 80
The STATE, Resondent,
Pauline WATTS, Appellant.
No. 18599.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Feb. 3, 1967.

[249 S.C. 81]

Page 685

Robert E. Kneece, Frank L. Taylor, Kermit S. King, Columbia, for appellant.

[249 S.C. 82] John W. Foard, Jr., Sol., Columbia, for respondent.

G. BADGER BAKER, Acting Associate Justice.

The appellant, Pauline Watts, was tried in the Court of General Sessions for Richland County on an indictment charging the murder of Francis Watts, appellant's husband, on December 24, 1964. Appellant was found guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to imprisonment for eight years.

At the conclusion of the testimony offered by the State and after the reception of all evidence in the case, the appellant moved for direction of verdict of not guilty. The motions were denied by the trial judge.

The principal ground in each motion, preserved by exceptions to the rulings, is the insufficiency of evidence, Aliunde extrajudicial statements of appellant to prove the Corpus delicti. It is admitted by appellant that the first [249 S.C. 83] element of the Corpus delicti, that is, the fact of the death of Francis Watts, has been sufficiently proven by the State. It is, however, contended that the State failed to legally or sufficiently prove the second element, that the death of Watts was brought about through the criminal agency of another.

Page 686

Francis Watts, a deputy sheriff for Richland County, was fatally wounded at his home, in Richland County, about the hour of six o'clock in the evening. He was carried to the emergency room of the Columbia Hospital and was examined by Dr. Henry F. Hall.

Dr. Hall stated Watts was dead when he examined him, that there was a pistol shot wound, below the angle of the right jaw, which went through the neck, severed the trachea and esophagus and came out the left side of the neck. The cause of death was the pistol shot wound in the neck, hemorrhage and anoxemia.

Benny Dixon, a deputy sheriff, accompanied by Constable Leroy Cherry, went to the Watts home in response to a telephone call or a radio dispatch. The officers arrived a few minutes after six o'clock. They entered the living room from the front door and found Francis Watts, unconscious, on the floor, his head and shoulders in a pool of blood. The body was in front of a couch against a wall of the living room and immediately adjacent to the doorway into the dining room. Mr. Dixon testified that Francis Watts, Jr., a son of the deceased, then fourteen or fifteen years of age, was down beside his father trying to render aid by attempting to stop the flow of blood.

Mr. Dixon and Mr. Cherry went to the aid of Mr. Watts and found that he was in bad shape. Mr. Cherry then went into the dining room and returned to the living room, followed by Mrs. Watts, and handed Mr. Dixon a .38 service revolver belonging to the deceased. Mr. Cherry also delivered to Officer Dixon five live cartridges and one spent cartridge. Officer Cherry then went to the front of the home to direct the ambulance which had not arrived but had been summoned.

[249 S.C. 84] Pausing at this point in the testimony there is, in our opinion, clear and substantive proof of the corpus delicti. The deceased was found unconscious and lying on the floor in a puddle of blood. The only weapon found was in an adjoining room and this pistol contained five live cartridges and one spent cartridge. The fact that the mortal wound was inflicted by a pistol, a deadly weapon, creates a rebuttable presumption of the malicious use of a firearm. The facts and circumstances in this case are as strong, if not stronger, as the circumstances to be found in State v. Thomas, 222 S.C. 484, 73 S.E.2d 722.

Pertinent to the proof of Corpus delicti is the following from State v. Epes, 209 S.C. 246, 39 S.E.2d 769:

'In proving Corpus delicti, the law demands the best proof which in the nature of the case is attainable. Direct and positive evidence is not essential. It is now well established that the elements constituting the Corpus delicti in a homicide--the death of the person whose life is alleged to have been taken feloniously, and the criminal agency of another in taking the life of such person--may be sufficiently proved by presumptive or circumstantial evidence, where that is the best evidence obtainable.'

The appellant has phrased her exceptions on the theory that proof of the corpus delicti, and the guilt of the accused, cannot be based upon the extrajudicial statements or confession of appellant. The facts do not support the contention.

Officer Dixon testified that...

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9 cases
  • Com. v. Thomas
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 9 Noviembre 1978
    ...State v. Thayer, 32 Or.App. 193, 573 P.2d 758 (1978); State v. Infantolio, 116 R.I. 303, 355 A.2d 722 (1976); State v. Watts, 249 S.C. 80, 152 S.E.2d 684 (1967); State v. Mellon, --- Tenn. --- 557 S.W.2d 497 (1977); Brooks v. State, 548 S.W.2d 680 (Tex.Cr.App.1977); State v. Pierre, --- Uta......
  • State v. Osborne, 24942.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 3 Mayo 1999
    ...782 (1981) (applying rule to minor's "inculpatory statements"); State v. Speights, 263 S.C. 127, 208 S.E.2d 43 (1974); State v. Watts, 249 S.C. 80, 152 S.E.2d 684 (1967); State v. White, 311 S.C. 289, 296, 428 S.E.2d 740, 741 (Ct.App.1993) (applying rule to "inculpatory statements" in felon......
  • State v. Charping, 24855.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 23 Noviembre 1998
    ...facts assumed to be within the knowledge of the absent witness have been testified to by other qualified witnesses. State v. Watts, 249 S.C. 80, 152 S.E.2d 684 (1967). Here, the material facts were testified to by John and Vanessa John Thoman, who was with Charping and Whitlock the night of......
  • State v. Padilla, 27300.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Hawai'i
    • 6 Julio 2007 witnesses all persons who have knowledge of an offense alleged to have been committed by the defendant on trial."); State v. Watts, 249 S.C. 80, 152 S.E.2d 684, 688 (1967). We see nothing in Instruction 3.12 that is inconsistent with the law pertaining to reasonable doubt, the prosecutio......
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