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GRAVES V. UNITED STATES, 150 U. S. 118 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Graves v. United States, 150 U.S. 118 (1893)

Graves v. United States

No. 838

Submitted October 19, 1893

Decided November 6, 1893

150 U.S. 118


Where objection is made in a criminal trial to comments upon facts not in evidence or statements having no connection with the case or exaggerated expressions of the prosecuting officer, it is the duty of the court to interfere and put a stop to them if they are likely to be prejudicial to the accused.

The wife of a person accused of crime is not a competent witness, on his trial, either in his own behalf or on the part of the government, and a comment to the jury upon her absence by the district attorney, permitted by the court after objection, is held to be reversible error.

This was a writ of error upon the conviction of the plaintiff in error for the murder of an unknown man in the Indian Territory on the 13th day of February, 1889. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 150 U. S. 119

The evidence on the part of the prosecution tended to show that several days before the murder, two men stopped together at Vian and obtained a contract to make rails for one Waters, and lived in a house about one mile from Waters' residence. They came from Winslow, in the State of Arkansas, in an old vehicle drawn by two horses, and were on their way to Oklahoma, staying at Vian for a few days for the purpose of earning provisions for themselves and horses. One of these men was accompanied by his wife and two small children. After remaining for several days, they left the neighborhood, and were next seen camping near the scene of the murder, on the evening of February 13. Their personalities were remembered, although their names were forgotten, except that a boy remembered the name of one of them to have been John Graves. The morning after they were seen together in camp, one of the men was seen putting the horses to the vehicle, in which were the woman and a child, but the witness saw but one man and one child. About the 1st of May following, the remains of a dead man were found near the place where the witness claimed to have seen the people camped. The body was decayed, but was identified mainly by peculiarities of the teeth and clothing. He was the man who had claimed to own the horses and wagon. The witnesses for the prosecution recognized the defendant, Graves, as the other man, though to most of them his name had been unknown. Defendant's wife was admitted to have been in town at the time of the trial, but did not appear in the courtroom. She was seen by one of the witnesses of the prosecution outside of the court room, and was believed by the witness to have been the woman who had been with the party.

The defense was an alibi, and was supported by several witnesses, who swore that in the months of January, February, and March of that year defendant was in Washington county, Arkansas, a distance of one hundred miles or more from the place where the remains of the dead man were found. Upon conviction of murder, defendant sued out this writ of error, making fifteen assignments of error. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 150 U. S. 120

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