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State v. Nelson

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle County

July 15, 1955

STATE of Delaware
v.
Carl NELSON.

Defendant was convicted of manslaughter. On his motion for a new trial, the Superior Court, Layton, J., held that the corpus delicti need not, as a general rule, be proved conclusively before offer in evidence of defendant's confession, but that quantum of proof aliunde required as condition precedent to admission of confession should be that which, though not conclusive in itself, establishes corpus delicti beyond reasonable doubt when taken in connection with confession.

Motion denied.

The corpus delicti need not, as general rule, be proved conclusively before offer in evidence of defendant's confession of crime charged, but quantum of proof aliunde, required as condition precedent to admission of confession, should be that which, though not conclusive in itself, establishes corpus delicti beyond reasonable doubt when taken in connection with confession.

[49 Del. 301] Defendant, Carl Nelson, was indicted for first degree murder as the result of the death by strangulation of Ann Rose Parsons. The jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter.

Defendant has moved for a new trial upon two grounds assigning as error

(1) That the Court improperly admitted certain medical testimony and,

(2) That it erred in refusing to charge that the corpus delicti must be proved independently of the confession, and beyond a reasonable doubt, before evidence of a confession is admissible.

Joseph Donald Craven, Atty. Gen., for the State.

H. James Conaway, Jr., Wilmington, for defendant.

RICHARDS, P. J., and TERRY and LAYTON, JJ., sitting.

LAYTON, Judge.

The first contention is easily disposed of. The State's medical witness was Dr. Cassella, a pathologist. He conducted a post mortem examination of the deceased's body. His testimony fell roughly into two categories:

(1) From his examination of the deceased's body, including certain marks or bruises on the deceased's neck and the evidence of bruised muscles lying underneath the skin of the neck, that death was consistent [1] with stangulation.

(2) From his examination of the deceased's body as well as certain verbal history [2] related to him by an unnamed person that death was very probably (though not definitely) caused by strangulation.

Despite the complete clarity of the record in respect of the first proposition, defendant insists that Dr. Cassella did not so testify-rather, he maintains that it was only with the benefit of [49 Del. 302] the verbal history that the doctor was able to conclude that death was consistent with strangulation and, because

Page 695

the verbal history represents hearsay, it is asserted that the doctor's conclusion is inadmissible. After a careful reading of the record, we can only conclude that defendant is mistaken as to the facts. The doctor stated without equivocation that based upon his own examination of deceased's body and nothing more, death was consistent with strangulation. ...


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