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Nichols v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia
May 17, 1965
111 Ga. App. 699 (Ga. Ct. App. 1965)



ARGUED MAY 4, 1965.

DECIDED MAY 17, 1965.

Receiving stolen goods. Chatham Superior Court. Before Judge Harrison.

Sullivan, Herndon Smith, John J. Sullivan, for plaintiff in error.

Andrew J. Ryan, Jr., Solicitor General, Andrew J. Ryan, III, contra.

1. An assignment of error upon the admission of evidence which shows that no objection was urged when the evidence was admitted presents no question for review.

2. Knowledge that goods are stolen is an essential element of the crime of receiving stolen goods. It may be shown by circumstances which would excite suspicion in the mind of an ordinarily prudent man.

ARGUED MAY 4, 1965 — DECIDED MAY 17, 1965.

James Henry Nichols was indicted, tried before the judge without a jury, a jury trial having been waived, and convicted of buying and receiving stolen goods. The defendant was employed by Carrellas Brothers in Savannah, a market where sea foods are sold. On October 25, 1963, Robert Graves and Nathaniel Milton, employees of Savannah Ice Delivery Company, which also handles sea foods, took 20 gallons of fresh oysters from the place of their employment on a truck of one Brown to the place of Carrellas Brothers. Milton testified that the oysters were turned over to Nichols and positively identified him as the man "who bought them," and that he and Graves divided the money between them. Graves also testified that he and Milton took the oysters to the place of Carrellas Brothers where they were delivered to Nichols, and though he did not see the money, he did see Milton and Nichols talking and afterward he got money from Milton. Both Graves and Milton had previously been convicted for stealing the same oysters. Brown testified that he operated the fish concession at Carrellas Brothers and denied that Milton and Graves bought or sold any oysters to anybody at that palce.

To the overruling of an amended motion for new trial the defendant excepts.

1. The only special ground in the motion for new trial assigns error upon the admission of testimony of Nathaniel Milton that: "Graves and I took them (oysters) together and put them on a company truck and afterwards we put them on a truck driven by Brown, and the three of us took them to the Carrellas store, where me and Graves took the oysters off Brown's truck and turned them over to John Henry Nichols sitting over there (identifying defendant) at Carrellas Brothers; he worked there; and me and Robert Graves divided the money up. Nichols didn't know we were oyster salesmen." The error assigned is that the witness testified on cross examination that he had made a statement to the same effect to the police after they told him he could not get out on bond.

It is conceded that this "testimony was not objected to at the time" it was offered. "[N]o court of review can adjudicate a question which was not properly and timely presented to the trial judge. A court of review is to correct errors of the lower court, and the judge in the lower court can not err as to a matter which he is not called upon to adjudicate." Hamilton v. State, 169 Ga. 613, 616 ( 151 S.E. 17). Moreover, there was similar testimony from Graves, unobjected to, who did not testify that he had made the same statement to the police after being advised that he could not get bond or under any other circumstances.

It is to be observed that the witness did not, in his testimony, deny the truth of the statement which was given to the police; on the other hand he testified positively to the same facts. It was his testimony, and not the statement given the police, that was before the court.

The cases of Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368 ( 84 SC 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908); Massiah v. U.S., 377 U.S. 201 ( 84 SC 1199, 12 L.Ed.2d 246); McLemore v. State, 181 Ga. 462 ( 182 S.E. 618, 102 ALR 634); Lemon v. State, 80 Ga. App. 854 ( 57 S.E.2d 626); Smith v. State, 64 Ga. App. 312 ( 13 S.E.2d 96); McKennon v. State, 63 Ga. App. 466 ( 11 S.E.2d 416), and others dealing with admission of confessions of the defendant which may have been obtained improperly have no application to this situation. Cf. Jones v. State, 4 Ga. App. 741 ( 62 S.E. 482); Shelton v. State, 111 Ga. App. 351 (8) ( 141 S.E.2d 776). Nor does Upshaw v. U.S., 335 U.S. 410 ( 69 SC 170, 93 LE 100), dealing with the matter of unnecessary delay in taking an arrested person before a committing magistrate and obtaining a confession from him during the interim of delay. It, too, deals with the matter of a confession by the defendant. And see, Pennaman v. Walton, 220 Ga. 295 ( 138 S.E.2d 571).

Even if the testimony had been objectionable, since the judge was acting both as judge and jury, it must be presumed that he "has sifted the wheat from the chaff and selected the legal testimony from that which is illegal and incompetent," unless from the judgment itself it appears that consideration was given to testimony that should have been excluded. Bailey v. Holmes, 163 Ga. 272, 275 ( 136 S.E. 60); Ward v. State, 26 Ga. App. 61 ( 105 S.E. 373). We can not say that the conviction here rested upon any inadmissible evidence.

2. We come now to consider the general grounds. There was proof that the oysters were stolen, proof of ownership, proof of value, and proof that they were sold by the thieves to this defendant. But there was no proof that the price paid was so disproportionate to value as to charge him with notice that the oysters were stolen goods. The only evidence that in any wise indicates that the purchase price may have been much below the value was a statement by Henry Brown, a witness for the defendant, that "I cannot conceive of any 20 gallons of oysters being worth $184, and I cannot conceive of Nichols being able to get $35 to purchase oysters."

"Knowledge that goods are stolen is an essential element of the crime of receiving stolen goods ( Sanford v. State, 4 Ga. App. 449, 61 S.E. 741; O'Connell v. State, 55 Ga. 191), and this knowledge on the part of the accused must be proved, to warrant a conviction under the Penal Code § 168 [now § 26-2620] ( Stripland v. State, 114 Ga. 843, 40 S.E. 993); but it may be inferred from circumstances ( Birdsong v. State, 120 Ga. 850, 48 S.E. 329; Rivers v. State, 118 Ga. 42-45, 44 S.E. 859), where the circumstances shown would excite suspicion in the minds of ordinarily prudent men ( Cobb v. State, 76 Ga. 664; Cobb v. State, 78 Ga. 801, 2 S.E. 628); and `the rule is too well settled to be disturbed, that the possession of stolen property immediately after it is stolen puts upon the possessor the burden of proving that his was not a guilty possession.' Daniel v. State, 65 Ga. 200; Wiley v. State, 3 Ga. App. 120 (2), 123 ( 59 S.E. 438)." Williams v. State, 16 Ga. App. 697 (6) ( 85 S.E. 973).

Buying at a price grossly less than value is a circumstance sufficient to excite suspicion and when that it shown a conviction is authorized. Pharr v. State, 26 Ga. App. 433 ( 106 S.E. 306). If it had sufficiently appeared in the evidence here that the defendant purchased oysters valued at $184 for $35, as is suggested may have been the case by the statement of his own witness, we should have no hesitancy in affirming. But it does not. For aught that appears in this record the defendant may have paid full value for the oysters. True enough, the suggestion of that is strongly refuted by his denial that he purchased any oysters from the thieves, though admitting that they came to the place where they claim to have sold them to him, that he was there and that he saw them. This circumstance, if buttressed by evidence as to the sale at a price disproportionate to value would certainly have been ample to support a conviction. If the defendant had been found in possession of the oysters shortly after they were stolen the evidence would have been enough — but that was not the case.

The State may have had the evidence by which a legal conviction could have been obtained, but it failed in presenting it. There is dependence upon circumstantial evidence for showing guilty knowledge that the oysters were stolen goods, and the circumstances shown are not sufficient.

Judgment reversed. Nichols, P. J., and Pannell, J., concur.

Summaries of

Nichols v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia
May 17, 1965
111 Ga. App. 699 (Ga. Ct. App. 1965)
Case details for

Nichols v. State

Case Details


Court:Court of Appeals of Georgia

Date published: May 17, 1965


111 Ga. App. 699 (Ga. Ct. App. 1965)
143 S.E.2d 41

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