War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0423 EARLY EVENTS IN MISSOURI, ETC.

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telegraph wires. The only remaining issue then to which I wish to direct the attention of the court is that contained in charge Numbers 1 and the specification under it. This charge and specification is as follows:

Destroying railroadsoperty.

Specification: In this, that the said John W. Owen on or about the 20th day of December, A. D. 1861, in the counties of Audrain and Montgomery in the State of Missouri and within the lines occupied by the troops od the United States did unlawfully, witfully and maliciously tear up, buen and destroy the rails, ties, track and bridges, depots and other buildings of the North Missouri Railroad (so-called) contrary to the laws and customs of war, &c.

In support of this charge the only evidence introduced has been the defendant's owen admission; and regarding these confessions as being property before the Court (about which, however, there is some doubt) it becomes a question how much they of themselves can prove, or in other words whether a conviction can be founded upon bare confessions without any other corroborating proof. While at first blush it would appear that no same man would make a confession convicting or tending to convict himself of high erimes or mesdemeanors nevertheless the experience of ages has shown that confessions even when voluntarily made must be received with great caution, and this is especially the case on trials for capital offenses. Greenleaf, in his Treatise on Evidence (Vol. 1, Sec. 217), says:

Whether extra judicial confessions uncorrborated by other proof of the corpus delicti are of themselves sufficient to found a conviction of the prisoner has been greatly doubted.

Again, same section, the author says:

In the United States the prisoner's confession when the corups delicti is not otherwise proved has been held insufficient for his conviction.

And the same author continues:

And this opinion certainly best accords with the humanity of the criminal code and with the great degree of caution applied in receiving and weighing the evidence of confession in other cases and it seems countenanced by approved writers on this branch of the law.

The authority here seems clear that not only the corpus delicti ought to be proven but that confession ought alos to be corroborated by other evidence. Wharton, in his American Criminal Law (p. 313), says:

A free and voluntary confession by a person accused of an offense whether made before his apprehension or after; whether on a judicial examination or after commitment; whether reduced to writing or not; in short any voluntary confession made by a defendant to any person at any time or place, is strong evidenand if satisfactory proved when there is proof of the corups delicti sufficient to convict according to English rule without any corroborating circumstances. But in this country in particular there is a growing unwilligness to rest convictions on confessions alone.

Again, De Hart's Military Law, p. 382:

Confession ought always to be received with caution, and a voluntary confession made by a person who has committed an offense is evidence against him upon which he may be convicted although the confession is totally uncorroborated by other evidence, provided the courpus delicti-that is this act constituting the crime-be provided.

Many other authorities might be prcuded on this point but what have been cited seem sufficient to my mind to establish the law beyond cavil that the corupus delicti must be proven before conviction can be had upon mere confessions. And all the authorities that I have examinied with one exception agree with singular unanimity that the con-