On appeal from the Union County Court of Oyer and Terminer.
For the plaintiff in error, Alexander Simpson.
For the defendant in error, Abe J. David.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
BODINE, J. William M. Frazer was convicted of murder in the first degree. On February 18th, 1931, he shot Phoebe Stader while she was sitting in his automobile while it was standing on the road between Newburgh and Walden, New York. She died after he had driven the car by the Durant automobile plant in Elizabeth and while still in Union county. He then told a relative and his wife what he had done, covered the body, locked the car and went to bed in his mother's house after indulging in some talk of suicide. The next day he started south with the body and after stripping it of clothes and a ring dragged it into the woods near Carmel Church, Virginia, where it was subsequently found and conclusively identified. The clothing he kept in the car till after he had met a hitch-hiker, one William McGrath, a witness at the trial who proved that about eight miles out of South Hill, Virginia, a woman's clothing and effects were burned by Frazer, who then went on his way to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he was apprehended while using an assumed name. Before leaving New Jersey, arrangements were made with a cousin to send him money. On the way south, plaintiff in error stopped in Philadelphia and wrote to Phoebe Stader's sister to tell her that they were on their way to California.
The proofs clearly show that Mrs. Stader, who had accompanied Frazer in his automobile to Walden, New York, a day or two before the shooting, was shot with a bullet from a .22 calibre rifle, which Frazer had owned for a long time and for which he had purchased a box of cartridges at the store of one George F. Evans, in Walden, New York, on February 17th, 1931, the day before the shooting.
The first point argued in behalf of the plaintiff in error is that the court was without jurisdiction since there is no proof, apart from Frazer's statement, that the woman died in Union county.
The prosecution has the burden of proving that a crime has been committed before the jury can proceed to inquire as to who committed it. 16 Corp. Jur. 529.
Apart from Frazer's own statement, the state proved the finding by the sheriff of Carolina county, Virginia, of Mrs. Stader's dead body, stripped of clothing, in the woods near Carmel Church. The body was identified by her husband and brought to Elizabeth where an autopsy was performed by Dr. George W. Horre, who found that she died of a bullet wound in the head, the bullet entering one inch to the left and one inch above the occipital protuberance.
Frazer's cousin, a man named Jansen, who lived at Frazer's mother's house in Rahway, testified that on Wednesday morning, February 18th, 1931, Frazer woke him up; that when he dressed and went out to Frazer's car, which was standing in the street, he saw Mrs. Stader's dead body in a sitting position in the front seat; that so far as he could tell she was dead. The pair then went to Frazer's wife's house and woke her up. After some talk, Frazer went out with the promise that he would kill himself, which he failed to do. The dead body was then placed in the rear of the car and was covered with a crate and blankets to conceal it. The medical testimony indicated that the woman could have lived for some hours after the shot was fired. Thus was Frazer's statement corroborated.
The corpus delicti was proved beyond the requirements of law. State v. Guild, 10 N.J.L. 163. "If death through criminal agency be proved, and a man confesses to having caused that death he may be convicted of murder on his confession." State v. Kwiatkowski, 83 Id. 650, 660. "Full proof of the body of the crime, the corpus delicti, independently of the confession, is not required. It may be proved by the confession itself, corroborated by other evidence." State v. Banusik, 84 Id. 640, 646. So that even if proof of the place of death be regarded as an ...