Wallace v. State

Decision Date15 June 1899
Citation26 So. 713,41 Fla. 547
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Error to criminal court of record, Escambia county; A. C. Blount Judge.

Ed. A Wallace was convicted of maliciously threatening to accuse Marie Anderson of keeping a bawdy house, with intent to extort money, and brings error. Reversed.

Syllabus by the Court


1. To sustain pleas of former conviction or former acquittal, it must be shown that the offense of which such former conviction or former acquittal was had was the same as the one charged in the indictment to which such pleas are interposed.

2. Where accused persons entered into one general conspiracy to accuse various other persons of offenses of keeping bawdy houses for the purpose of extorting money, and in pursuance of the conspiracy did so accuse such other persons and extort money from them, neither a conviction of such accused persons upon a charge for the conspiracy, nor an acquittal upon a charge of maliciously verbally threatening to accuse one of their victims of the offense of keeping a bawdy house for the purpose of extorting money, constitute any defense to a charge of maliciously verbally threatening to accuse another of their victims of the offense of keeping a bawdy house for the purpose of extorting money, because the offenses are entirely separate and distinct.

3. Although the court may err in admitting evidence of acts of a third person material to the issues, without proof that such third person was acting under authority from the defendant yet if the defendant, as a witness, admits the authority of such persons to do the acts, the error is cured.

4. Evidence of another and distinct crime committed by a defendant, in no way connected by circumstances with the one for which he is being tried, is inadmissible; but proof of any fact, with its circumstances, even though amounting to a distinct crime, if it has some relevant bearing upon the issue being tried, is admissible.

5. Evidence of defendant's acts prior or subsequent to the alleged offense, which logically tends to prove the criminal intent or guilty knowledge, where it is material, is admissible, even though such evidence tends to prove the commission of another offense. Likewise, where the crime charged is one of a system of criminal acts occurring so near together in point of time and so nearly similar in means as to lead to the logical inference that they are all mutually dependent and committed in pursuance of the same deliberate criminal purpose, and by means planned beforehand, evidence of such other acts is admissible, even though those acts amount to another criminal offense. But such evidence is not admissible for the purpose of proving that defendant committed the crime charged against him, but to show his purpose, plan, intent, or knowledge, or to show that the acts charged against him were not the result of accident, mistake or inadvertence, or to rebut a defense which would otherwise be open to him.

6. Where a witness has testified to certain facts having no apparent tendency to criminate him, and a question is then asked, an affirmative answer to which, taken in connection with the other facts testified to, would furnish pertinent evidence against the witness upon a criminal prosecution against him, the court may properly permit the witness to avail himself of his privilege of not answering, without requiring him to say in so many words that the answer would tend to criminate him, or to explain how it would tend to do so.

7. Although the court, for an erroneous reason, declines to require a witness to answer a question propounded by counsel yet, where it clearly appears to the appellate court that the answer to such question would have been wholly irrelevant and immaterial, the ruling will not be disturbed.

8. It is a matter of discretion with the trial court to permit, or to decline to permit, a witness upon cross-examination to be interrogated as to indictments or charges, before conviction against him, of criminal offenses, and this discretion is not subject to review on appeal or writ of error, unless abused.

9. Where the court erroneously admits evidence of an isolated, immaterial fact, but it affirmatively appears to the appellate court that such evidence did not injure the defendant, and that the immaterial fact, standing alone or in combination with the other evidence in the case, could not have injured him, such error will be deemed harmless, and insufficient to reverse the judgment.

10. Where the court permits a witness to testify to a pertinent matter of which the court is required to take judicial knowledge, and the answer of the witness truly states the matter as it should lie within the judicial knowledge of the court, the party objecting to such evidence is not injured by its admission.

11. A plaintiff in error is in the appellate court confined to the specific grounds of objection made by him to questions propounded to witnesses in the trial court, and objections to such questions raised primarily in the appellate court will not be considered.

12. Since Act 1895, c. 4400, when an accused person elects to avail himself of its provisions he occupies the status of a witness, becomes liable to cross-examination the same as other witnesses, and what he states is subject to the tests established for weighing the testimony of other witnesses.

13. The cross-examination of all witnesses is confined to the facts and circumstances connected with the matters stated in direct examination, but, when a witness testifies to certain facts relating to a transaction in his presence, he may, on cross-examination, be required to testify to the whole of it. He may likewise be required to answer any proper question tending to discredit him, and he may be interrorgated concerning matters which, if true, are inconsistent with his direct testimony, or which render his statements on direct examination improbable.

14. For the purpose of discrediting a witness, a wide range of cross-examination is permitted as a matter of right, in regard to his motives, interest, or animus, as connected with the cause or the parties thereto, upon which matters he may be contradicted by other evidence; and a like range of cross-examination is, in the discretion of the trial court, allowed into the past life and history of a witness, and as to his present employments and associates, when the matters inquired about tend to affect credibility; and while answers to questions of this nature are conclusive upon the party asking them, and may be wholly irrelevant as to the direct question of defendant's guilt, and may tend to degrade or disgrace the witness, they are not for these reasons only to be disallowed, but if answers to questions of this nature would tend to criminate the witness, and he claims his privilege of declining to answer, he should not be compelled to answer. The matter of permitting questions of this nature rests in the sound judicial discretion of the trial court, who must judge of their propriety from what transpires upon the trial and the course and conduct of the witness upon the stand, and this discretion will not be interfered with by an appellate court, unless abused. These rules apply to the cross-examination of a defendant, when he voluntarily offers himself as a witness, to the same extent, and with like limitations, as to other witnesses.

15. The rules which should govern the trial court in exericising its discretion in allowing or disallowing inquiries upon cross-examination into collateral matters to affect credibility do not authorize any question to be put for the sole purpose of disgracing a witness. The court should disallow all inquiries into collateral matters which do not tend to affect credibility. The inquiry must, in general, though not necessarily always, relate to transactions comparatively recent, and the transaction inquired about must be one which bears directly upon the present character or credit of the witness. Inquiry into collateral matters should not be permitted unless there is reason to believe it may tend to promote the ends of justice, and it seems essential to the true estimation of the witness' testimony by the jury. The court should promptly suppress all inquiry into matters not relevant to credit, and should not permit a disparaging course of examination, which seems unjust to the witness, and uncalled for by the circumstances of the case.

16. Where proper questions are asked, but objectionable answers are given, the party complaining should move to strike the answers.

17. The court does not err in refusing instructions the substance of which has already been given in the general charge of the court.

18. The court does not err in refusing instructions not based upon any evidence in the case, or which assume as proven facts matters not admitted by the parties, and as to which the evidence is conflicting.

19. The court does not err in refusing instructions so framed as to mislead the jury into erroneous impressions of their duty in passing upon the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

20. An instruction to the jury: That defendant is presumed by the law to be innocent. That the burden is upon the state to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That 'a reasonable doubt is a doubt for which you can give a reason. In other words, if the evidence of defendant's guilt satisfies you to such an extent as to leave you without a doubt that he may be innocent, for which you can give an intelligent reason, then it would be your duty to convict. Such a doubt may arise either from affirmative evidence tending to show the defendant's innocence, or from the lack of evidence sufficient to establish his guilt,'--may properly be given.

21. Under the...

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