For the State of New Jersey, defendant in error, John A. Lynch, prosecutor.
For the plaintiff in error, Morris Spritzer and George L. Burton.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
CASE, J. Plaintiff in error was found guilty by a Middlesex County jury of murder in the first degree and was thereupon sentenced by the court to death. The case comes up on assignments under a strict writ of error and also on specifications for reversal under a certification of the entire record. The following facts were in evidence. In all essential respects they came from Molnar, himself, whom we shall refer to as the defendant, either in his proved confessions, or in his testimony at the trial, or in both. His testimony did not vary materially from his proved confessions.
Defendant had been married for about four years to Anna Rozanski, a daughter of Adam Rozanski. There was one child of the marriage, aged two and one-half years. Disagreements came, accompanied by court hearings and followed by a separation which began about nine months before the date of the crime charged in the indictment. During the separation defendant lived with his mother, and his wife resided with her father. The infant child of the marriage was, under an order of custody given by the court a few days earlier, with the wife at the time of the crime. Defendant nursed grievances against his wife and her family because of the "lies" that he believed they had told about him, with the result that he conceived the idea of killing his wife and, later, of killing her entire family, especially her father. He owned a "22" calibre rifle and two "32" calibre revolvers. Two or three days before the tragedy he exchanged his smaller revolvers for a "38" calibre revolver. His purpose in wanting the larger weapon, so he said, was "to kill the wife and the family and whoever else I could grab hold of." On December 7th, 1944, he went forth to execute a deliberated plan to kill, and definitely to kill his wife and her father. He placed the revolver, loaded with five bullet cartridges, under his belt beneath his vest.
He "broke" the rifle so that it could be folded, and he wrapped it, as thus folded, in a newspaper and carried the same as a parcel. He placed the cartridge clip of the rifle, loaded with shells, in his pocket, as also a further supply of loose cartridges. Thus armed to kill and with the purpose to kill he sought and found his selected and unsuspecting victims at their home. The confession reads:
"Q. When you went to your wife's house to-day, whom did you expect to shoot? A. The wife first.
"Q. And then who? A. The father.
"Q. The father? A. That's right.
"Q. The sister, too? A. Well, that married sister wasn't there.
"Q. If she were there, would you have shot her, too? A. That's right.
" Q. Was it your intention to kill them all? A. Well, mostly them two, because they been always -- They always got up them lies. They are always, you know, getting me messed up.
"Q. How about the sister Agnes? A. Well, she is snotty before when I used to go down there. None of them liked me. I felt the same way towards them.
"Q. So that you didn't like them and they didn't like you; is that it? A. That's right.
"Q. And because of that feeling between you people you decided to kill them; is that right? A. Yes, for lying."
When defendant arrived at his father-in-law's house his wife and her sister were in the kitchen. Rozanski himself was in a bedroom, sleeping. The defendant knocked at the kitchen door and was admitted. He took the rifle package from under his coat and put it behind a chair. There was some trivial conversation. The defendant's testimony on the witness stand was that he asked his wife about some phonograph records that her brother had borrowed. His testimony follows:
"Then I asked the wife about the records, did she ask the brother for it. She said, 'He was just here. Why didn't you ask him?' That is all, I guess, and then I started shooting. And when I did, she was spilling hot water in the sink from the kettle.
"Q. And when you started shooting you were in which room, Daniel? A. The living room, the parlor.
"Q. And where was your wife? A. She was alongside of the sink in the kitchen, spilling hot water from the kettle in a ...