Wicks v. Commonwealth

Decision Date01 January 1824
Citation4 Va. 387
PartiesReuben Wicks v. The Commonwealth
CourtVirginia Supreme Court

[Syllabus Material]

This was an application for a Writ of Error to a judgment of the Superior Court of Nottoway, whereby the petitioner was sentenced to death, for the murder of one George Hood.

The Indictment contains two Counts; in the first of which, the murder is charged to have been committed with a club; in the second, with a stone. Both Counts charge the assault to have been made, and the murder to have been committed " feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought; " neither of them charge it to have been done " deliberately and premeditatedly," nor give any of those descriptions which, by the Statute, are declared to constitute murder in the first degree.

The jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree. He moved the Court to arrest the judgment, on the ground, that the Indictment did not charge the offence to have been done " deliberately and premeditatedly," as well as " wilfully, feloniously, and of his malice aforethought," nor with murder in the first degree. This motion was over-ruled. He then moved for a new trial, on the ground, that the verdict was contrary to evidence. This was likewise overruled, and judgment of death pronounced against him.

SYLLABUS

The facts proved on the trial, are stated in a Bill of Exceptions to the opinion of the Judge, and are as follow: " The deceased had charged the prisoner with stealing some iron from the shop of the deceased; a warrant was issued to apprehend the prisoner; before his trial by the committing Magistrate, he said at one time, that if Hood did not take care, he would stamp him to the earth; at another time, that if Hood again claimed his, the prisoner's iron as his own, he would break every bone in him, and massacre him; and at the third time, that if Hood did not let him alone, he would break his head: This threat was expressed in a tone and with a manner expressive of deep resentment, his countenance very lowering and angry: The next evening, he appeared in custody at colonel Jeter's tavern where he was detained all night: The day after his examination took place, and Hood was sworn as a witness against him, and did again claim and identify the iron in question. The prisoner was committed for the larceny, but bailed. After sunset, or about dark, the deceased left Jeter's, and went on his way home on foot. About the same time, a servant of the prisoner's was seen at Jeter's with a horse, enquiring for his master, and asking whether he would go home that night: Shortly after, the servant is seen returning on the horse without his master, who was left on foot at Jeter's. When or how the prisoner left Jeter's, did not appear. The next morning, Hood's body was found on the road to his house, barbarously murdered. Suspicion fell on the prisoner, the deceased being an honest and inoffensive blacksmith, against whom the neighbours all say no one had the least cause of complaint, and the prisoner being the only individual known to be out of temper with him, or to have the least motive to harm him. He was a sort of general favorite, and regarded with something more than ordinary kindness even by the blacks, on account of the fairness and liberality with which he traded with many of them for coal, which they were allowed by their masters to burn and sell.

The place where the body was found, was carefully examined: No full track could be found, but the tiptoe prints of the murderer were seen, where they led off from the body in a direction different from the prisoner's house, but the nature of the ground did not admit of tracing them. About eighty yards off, a single track was seen at full length still going in a direction different from the prisoner's house: The same track was again seen in Morgan's field, going nearly the same course, and in general, appeared to avoid the places where it might be traced, apparently keeping a hard path, and when for some cause he left the path, he returned to it again: The party searched on, but for half a mile or three quarters, they saw no trace of the track, but in about that distance, the track was plainly seen, measured, and found to be the same; and taking now a course direct for the prisoner's house: They followed through a field, and occasionally saw it, until within eighty yards of the house of the prisoner: The party went direct to the house; the front door was closed, and the window shutter also: They went round, and entering, arrested the prisoner who exhibited no marks of surprise at the visit, but after a short time, asked what is the matter now? He was answered that he knew; he replied, yes, he knew he should die and go to hell; and after some pause, added, and so will you. By this time it was observed, his clothes had been changed, the suit worn the day before having been extremely neat and clean, and his then appearance being the reverse; he was asked for the clothes he had pulled off; he said he had on the same clothes; whereupon, one of the party instantly went to the kitchen, when for the first time, the prisoner discovered great anxiety and embarrassment. The suit worn the day before, was found in the wash, part on the fire boiling, the residue in the washing tub: This was quite early in the morning, and no other clothing of the family were in the wash; the shirt-bosom and pantaloons had stains upon them exhibiting the same appearance which blood stains exhibit after being attempted to be washed out in hot ley or soap-suds, but not so unlike every other stain, as to admit of the positive affirmance on oath, that it was blood. The prisoner...

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1 cases
  • Hobson v. Youell
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court
    • 9 d1 Junho d1 1941
    ...in not charging specially such facts as would show the offense to have been murder in the first degree.' To the same effect, see Wicks v. Com., 2 Va.Cas. 387 , and Livingston v. Com., 14 Grat. [592] 596. "In the case of Thompson v. Com., 20 Grat. [724] 730, the court says: 'It is not necess......

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