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Opinion of the Court.
this case it would appear that the defendant supposed that the deceased was about to attack him with a knife. Defendant, however, was working at Lipe's, where his wife was staying, and if, as he claims, he saw a man in the act of raising a window which led to his wife's room, it was perfectly natural that he should wish to investigate, and to ascertain for what purpose the man was there. It appears to have been so dark at the time that defendant did not recognize deceased except by bis voice; that the deceased threatened, with an oath, to kill him, and as he says, "made for him ” with a knife. Under such circumstances we think that a charge to the jury that he was bound to retreat as far as he could, or disable his adversary without killing him, was misleading. We think that a man who finds another trying to obtain access to his wife's room in the night time, by opening a window, may not only remonstrate with him, but may employ such force as may be necessary to prevent his doing so; and if the other threatens to kill him, and makes a motion as if to do so, and puts him in fear of his life, or of great bodily harm, he is not bound to retreat, but may use such force as is necessary to repel the assault. Of course it is not intended to intimate that these were the facts, but what the facts were was a question for the jury, who had a right to believe the defendant's version, if it seemed probable to them. Upon the assumption that the jury did believe him, we think the charge imposed upon the defendant a responsibility and duty which he could not justly be called upon to bear.
3. The fourteenth assignment of error was to the following instructions upon the subject of the flight of the accused after the homicide :
“You take into consideration, in other words, the facts and circumstances which led up to the killing, the facts and circumstances that transpired at the time of the killing, and you do not stop there, but you take into consideration the facts and circumstances as affecting the defendant subsequently to the killing. For instance, you take into consideration the defendant's flight from the country his going into another part of the country - as evidence; and you are to pass upon the ques
Opinion of the Court.
tion as to whether or not he has sufficiently explained away the presumption which the law says arises from flight when a man has taken human life. It is a principle of human nature - and every man is conscious of it, I apprehend - that if he does an act which he is conscious is wrong, his conduct will be along a certain line. He will pursue a certain course not in harmony with the conduct of a man who is conscious that he has done an act which is innocent, right and proper. The truth is -- and it is an old scriptural adage - that the wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.' Men who are conscious of right have nothing to fear. They do not hesitate to confront a jury of their country, because that jury will protect them; it will shield them, and the more light there is let in upon their case the better it is for them. We are all conscious of that condition, and it is therefore a proposition of the law that, when a man flees, the fact that he does so may be taken against him, provided he does not explain it away upon some other theory than that of his flight because of his guilt.
“A man accused of crime hides himself, and then absconds. From this fact of absconding we may infer the fact of guilt. This is a presumption of fact, or an argument of a fact from a fact." Again upon that subject:
flight by a defendant is always relevant evidence when offered by the prosecution; and that it is a silent admission by the defendant that he is unwilling or unable to face the case against him. It is in some sense, feeble or strong as the case may be, a confession; and it comes in with the other incidents, the corpus delicti being proved from which guilt may be cumulatively in ferred."
“Now, that is the figure that flight cuts in a case. It is a question in this case whether this defendant has sufficiently explained it here to take away the effect of the presumption arising from flight."
In this connection the evidence tended to show that a day or two after the crime the defendant fled from the jurisdiction of the court, went to St. Louis, and there resumed his father's
Opinion of the Court.
name instead of that of his master, which he had previously borne. Defendant gave his reason for fleeing as follows: “ My heart was broke, and I just did not care to stay; I thought I would just go away from the country where I would never hear from my people any more, because my heart was broke, and my children was all young and they had just commenced to love me, and my heart was broke at that time, and that was the reason I went away.”
The weight which the jury is entitled to give to the flight of a prisoner immediately after the commission of a homicide was carefully considered by this court in the case of Hickory v. United States, 160 U. S. 408, in which a charge, substantially in the language of the instruction assigned as erroneous in this case, was held to be tantamount to saying to the jury that flight created a legal presumption of guilt so strong and so conclusive that it was the duty of the jury to act on it as axiomatic truth, and as such that it was error.
We do not find it necessary to repeat the argument that was made in that case, but we think it was especially misleading for the court to charge the jury that, from the fact of absconding, they might infer the fact of guilt, and that flight " is a silent admission by the defendant that he is unwilling or unable to face the case against him. It is in some sense, feeble or strong as the case may be, a confession; and it comes in with the other incidents, the corpus delicti being proved from which guilt may be cumulatively inferred.” While undoubtedly the flight of the accused is a circumstance proper to be laid before the jury, as having a tendency to prove his guilt; at the same time, as was observed in Ryan v. The People, 79 N. Y. 593, “ there are so many reasons for such conduct consistent with innocence, that it scarcely comes up to the standard of evidence tending to establish guilt, but this and similar evidence has been allowed upon the theory that the jury will give it such weight as it deserves, depending upon the surrounding circumstances.”
While there is no objection to that part of the charge which permits the jury to take into consideration the defendant's flight from the country as evidence bearing upon the question of his
Opinion of the Court.
guilt, it is not universally true that a man, who is conscious that he has done a wrong, “will pursue a certain course not in harmony with the conduct of a man who is conscious of having done an act which is innocent, right and proper; . since it is a matter of common knowledge that men who are entirely innocent do sometimes fly from the scene of a crime through fear of being apprehended as the guilty parties, or from an unwillingness to appear as witnesses. Nor is it true as an accepted axiom of criminal law that “the wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Innocent men sometimes hesitate to confront a jury -- not necessarily because they fear that the jury will not protect them, but because they do not wish their names to appear in connection with criminal acts, are humiliated at being obliged to incur the popular odium of an arrest and trial, or because they do not wish to be put to the annoyance' or expense of defending themselves. The criticism to be made upon this charge is, that it lays too much stress upon the fact of flight, and allows the jury to infer that this fact alone is sufficient to create a presumption of guilt. It certainly would not be contended as a universal rule that the fact that a person, who chanced to be present on the scene of a murder, shortly thereafter left the city, would, in the absence of all other testimony, be sufficient in itself to justify his conviction of the murder.
We have found it impossible to reconcile these instructions with the rulings of this court in the two cases above cited, and are therefore compelled to Reverse the judgment of the court below, and remand the
case with instructions to grant a new trial.
Statement of the Case.
CENTRAL PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY v.
SAME v. SAME. .
ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEVADA.
Nos. 170, 171. Argued March 20, 1896. - Decided April 20, 1896.
Since the passage of the act of July 10, 1886, c. 764, 24 Stat. 143, surveyed
but unpatented lands, on which the costs of survey nave not been paid, included within a railroad land grant, are subject to taxation by the State
in which they are situated. The nature of the taxable interest of a railroad company on such lands so
subjected to taxation, with the assent of Congress, does not present a
Federal question. The possessory claim of the railroad company to such lands is taxable
under the laws of Nevada without reference to the fact that they may be hereafter determined to be mineral lands, and so be excluded from the operation of the grant.
Tuis case (No. 170) was an action originally begun in the district court of Lander county by the State of Nevada against the Central Pacific Railroad Company and its property within such county, as well as the county's proportion of its rolling stock, to recover a state tax of $5545.92, and a county tax of $17,870.19, levied upon such road and its property for the year 1888. The petition prayed for judgment against the road for the amount of the tax and penalties for non-payment, and attorney's fees, and “ for such other judgment as to justice belongs."
The suit was both in rem and in personam, a statute of Nevada providing for bringing a suit against the person to whom the property is alleged to belong, and also against the property itself, and that the judgment rendered shall be against. both, and be a lien upon the property.
The railroad company answered the complaint; denied that it owned or possessed any land subject to taxation by the State, and disclaimed any interest in the lands described in the complaint, other than that derived by and through the