War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0424 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

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fession itself must be corroborated by other evidence before a conviction can be had. That exception is De Hart's Military Law, and that authority is clear that the corpus delicti must be proven by other evidence than the bare confession of the prisoner. Now what is the evidence upon which it is sought to convict this prisoner? It is deposed by two witnesses, Colonel Morton and Doctor McClain [McLean], and relates to the same conversation with the prisoner had in the presence of the two witnesses. In that conversation it seems that the prisoner cofessed that he had raised a company of men or troops for Price's army, and that after he had raised this company and mustered them into Price's service he received orders to destroy a certain portion of the North Missouri Railroad, namely, a section of that road commencing above Wellsville and running in the direction of Mexico.

The crime then sought to be proven in this case is the destruction of that specific portion of the North Missouri Railroad; for surely if his confession could not be relied on as the specific portion of the road destroyed it would hardly be sufficient to found a conviction upon. Then according to all authorities it must be proven that that specific of the railroad was destroyed by other evidences than the mere confession of the prisoner before a conviction can be had. Instead of proving that this specific portion of the road has been destroyed, however, it was not even attempted to be proven that any portion whatever had been destroyed. Now if the railroad has not been destroyed surely this prisoner ought not to be convicted; and he ought not to be convicted unless that specific portion mentioned in his confession was destroyed. But that is a fact that ought to be proven affirmatively before the court, and by all the authorities it ought to be proven by evidence other than the prisoner's own confession. It may be contended that the destruction of the railroad has become a part of thecountry. Suppose it is; is this a fact that can be proven by history? But facts of such recent occurrence can hardly he called history-at most it can only be a matter of common fame; and certainly it will not be contended that facts constituting the very gist of an offense-an offense, too, for which men's lives are jeopardized-can be proved by common fame. Facts that the law permits to be proven by common fame are generally such as can be proven in no other way, and that is the only reason for permitting them to be proven in that way. But even, if it could be proven in that way that the railroad was destroyed the case would not be dettered any, for no witness has testified that there is much a rumor; and if such evidence was before the court it would have to be confined to the specific portion mentioned in the confession, for the destruction of that portion and no other constitutes the body of this offense. But it may be argued that there was no inducement in this case why the confessions of the defendant against his interest should not be regarded as strictly tue; the men are not likely to make confessions, especially in a case so vital as this, unless the facts confessed to were strictly tue; in short that his confession could only be prompted by a love of truth.

But these arguments would apply with equal force in every case of confession. Indeed we could hardly conceive of a sane man desiring to have himself convicted of a crime of which he is not guilty. The general rule is that the guilty attempt to avoid punishment, not the innocent seek it; yet this rule is not without exceptions and on account of these exceptions the law has provided inflexible rules to govern judicial tribunals in determining what weight should be given to con-