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State v. Burley

Supreme Court of New Hampshire Strafford
Mar 2, 1948
57 A.2d 618 (N.H. 1948)


No. 3713.

Decided March 2, 1948.

Evidence of the respondent's consciousness of guilt, his identity, and an opportunity to commit the crime charged together with sufficient evidence of the basic facts necessary to establish that a crime was committed is sufficient to sustain a conviction, although the evidence is circumstantial in nature. It is not essential that each evidentiary fact bearing upon an issue in a criminal case be established beyond a reasonable doubt provided the evidence as a whole is sufficient to justify the verdict.

INDICTMENT, for breaking and entering a store in the nighttime with intent to commit larceny in violation of R.L., c. 453, s. 2. The date and the place of the alleged crime were the night of May 2, 1947, at No. 91 Main Street in Dover. Trial by jury with a view and verdict of guilty. At the close of the State's evidence the defendant moved for a directed verdict of not guilty. This motion was denied subject to exception. The defendant then rested without introducing any evidence. Other exceptions were taken by the defendant but were waived in the Supreme Court.

The questions of law raised by the said exceptions were reserved and transferred by Wescott, J.

Frank W. Peyser, County Solicitor (by brief and orally), for the State.

Robert J. Doyle and John McLaughlin (Mr. Doyle orally), for the defendant.

It is not disputed that the State established the corpus delicti, the basic facts necessary to prove the commission of the crime charged. The defendant does insist that it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the or an offender.

It was shown that the defendant had the opportunity. He lived at No. 1 Main Street. He was seen in the Ramble Inn between the hours of two and three o'clock A.M. on the night of the crime. This diner is located on the Square in Dover.

On cross-examination counsel for the defense emphasized the limited size of the cellar window of entry and the difficulty of making an entry through it. It appeared in evidence that the defendant was a professional boxer. The jury saw both him and the premises and could well decide whether he had the physical ability to effect the entry.

The State sought to establish defendant's guilt by identifying human fecal matter that was found on the insteps of both of his rubbers which lay beside the bed where he slept at his home the morning after the crime with such matter smeared and tracked over the cellar floor of the store and bearing the imprint of a rubber. The State's expert, a lieutenant of the State Police, testified that the markings or striations in the imprint on the floor were consistent with those on the rubber. 31 A.L.R. 204. Cross-examination of the two samples of matter from the rubbers and the floor showed them to be alike in consistency, color and odor. Microscopic analyses established identity of content of certain undigested materials as follows: (1) partially digested meat fibers with some of the connective tissue and surrounding envelope material; (2) vegetable tissue, consistent with the leaves of lettuce, cabbage or other leafy vegetables; and (3) particles of fruit hull or skin. The expert concluded that it was probable that the two samples came from the same person and that there was only a slim possibility that they came from different persons.

The State also introduced evidence of consciousness of guilt. The Dover chief of police testified that when questioned the morning after the crime concerning his whereabouts the night before the defendant first said that he was home shortly after midnight. After his wife had talked, he said he had been out later. Afterwards on the same day the defendant was asked by a police officer whether he had any wooden matches because several had been found in the cellar of the store. After his denial of having any, several were found in his package of cigarettes. State v. Barry, 93 N.H. 10.

"Enough has been said, however, to indicate that the evidence, although circumstantial (see 16 C.J. p. 762; 20 Am. Jur., Evidence, s. 273 State v. Thorp, 86 N.H. 501, 510; Ballas v. Company, 90 N.H. 428) is sufficient to warrant the finding by the jury of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. White, 91 N.H. 109, 113. "Of course each element of the offense must be shown by the requisite quantity of proof. State v. Bartlett, 43 N.H. 224, 230. But the rule does not go beyond this. It does not apply to merely evidentiary facts. The evidence of any of these is to be weighed for what it is worth, in ascertaining whether there is sufficient proof of the essential facts. State v. Smith, 32 Me. 369." State v. Kilcoyne, 82 N.H. 432, 433. See also, State v. Barry, supra, 13.

After hearing all the evidence, the jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty.

Exceptions overruled.

All concurred.

Summaries of

State v. Burley

Supreme Court of New Hampshire Strafford
Mar 2, 1948
57 A.2d 618 (N.H. 1948)
Case details for

State v. Burley

Case Details


Court:Supreme Court of New Hampshire Strafford

Date published: Mar 2, 1948


57 A.2d 618 (N.H. 1948)
57 A.2d 618

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