War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0426 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

Another instance is told two brothers named Boorns who on being charged with the murder of another were convicted and sentenced to death chiefly on their own admissions, but relieved from execution by the reppearance of their alleged victim. To the same effect is a case in Illinois in 1841 where three brothers named Trailor were arrested on a charge of murdering a man named Fisher, who men last seen had been in their company. Strong circumstantial evidence was produced showing the traces of a death struggle on the spot where the homicide was alleged to have been committed and the case was fortified by expressions alleged to have been subsequently used by one of the brothers as to his having become legatee of the deceased's property. The examinations had scarcely finished before one of the three defendants made a confession detailing circumstantially the whole transaction showing the previous combination and ending with a direct statement under oath of the homicide. To the amazement of the whole coutnry, however, the deceased made his appearance in just time engout to intercept a conviction.

Many other examples of similar confessions might be adduced but these are deemed sufficient to show the danger of convicting upon confessions alone. There may frequently be inducements for making a confesion that are never brought before the court. There arre frequently circumstances surrounding a person that he himself could not explain and yet would go far toward influnceing his counduct and producing confessions as to crimes of which he is really innocent. This may especially be expected when the prisoner is ignorant as in this case of the pentaly attached to the crime confessed. Upon considerations of this kind the wise maxims of the law are founded-that convictions ought not to be had upon confession alone; that the confession ought to be corroborated; and the corups delicti must always be proven. Here, however, neither is done, but the case rests solely upon the confessions of the prisoner, uncorroborated and without any proof of the corupus delicti. Isn't it then safe to follow the beaten paths of jurisprudence although occossionally the guilty may go unpunished? Should we attempt to tread anew the ground where so many of our predecessors have blundered? Should we again attempt to open up the by-ways of past jurisprudence already so deeply stained with the blood of innocent victims? The prisoner trusts that you will not. He believes to call your attention to such a course is sufficient to guard you against it.

There is one other point in this case to which the prisoner wishes to call your attention: Going upon the hypothesis that the crime was committed as confesses still he wishes you to bear in mind that the case confession shows him as acting under the orders of superior officers. He has never denied that the was regularly sworn into the service of the Missouri State Guard and that he held the position of captain of a company in that service. It is in proof before this court that General Price ordered the destruction of that road. If then he is found to be guilty thus of the crime alleged he wishes you to remember that he was obeying a military order. You are military men; you know how far such orders are binding. On this point then it will be unnecessary to argue the law on the fact. About the fact of such an order having emanated from Price and regularly transmitte through his inferior officers heimagines you can have no doubt. How far those regularly sworn into his service are doubt to obey such an order has already been argued before this court, and the prisoner deems it unnecessary to say more on that subject.