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State v. Malm

    Brief Fact Summary. A lady was murdered and the governor offered an award to anyone who could provide information about the murder.  Another lady provided information about the murder, but she did so prior to the award being offered.  

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. In this case "the manifest purpose of the statute was to elicit information not already available.  It was not its purpose to provide recompense to one who had wholly performed before the offer was made."

    Facts. The Plaintiff claimed an award offered by the governor in the matter of [State v. Malm].  On December 10, 1953, the body of Irene Fiederowicz ("Ms. Fiederowicz") was found and the police thought she was criminally assaulted.  The Plaintiff had been criminally assaulted recently, and her assailant had not been found.  There were many similarities between the two cases.  Based on these similarities, on December 11, the Plaintiff contacted the police and the information she provided made Malm a suspect.  Malm was taken into custody on December 12, and on December 13 he confessed to assaulting the Plaintiff.  On December 14, the governor "governor caused to be published an offer of reward in the Fiederowicz case 'to the person or persons who shall give information leading to the arrest and conviction' of the guilty person."  He did so pursuant to Section 8269 of the General Statutes, authorizing the governor "when any crime punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison has been committed, to offer publicly, upon application of the state's attorney in the county wherein the crime was committed, 'a reward not exceeding three thousand dollars, to the person who shall give information leading to the arrest and conviction of the guilty person * * *, which reward shall be paid to the informer by the state, by order of the court before which such conviction is had." On December 15, Malm confessed to Ms. Fiederowicz's murder.  The Plaintiff provided the police with all the information she had prior to the award being published. 

    Issue. Was there a valid acceptance of the governor's award?

    Held. The court first observed the statute "authorizing the offer of a reward 'contain[s] the conditions of a contract.' "  Further, "[s]o long as this offer continues in force it can be accepted only by compliance with its terms. This concept of an offer of a reward as an offer to enter into a contractual relationship which can be accepted by the performance of an act or series of acts is the one which has been generally accepted by the courts."  The court then pointed to a point of contention between certain courts, "whether the performance must be with knowledge of the offer in mind, or in other words whether the person claiming the reward must act in response to the offer."  The court further observed "where the public authorities have offered a reward for information leading to the apprehension and conviction of a criminal, some courts have held that even though the performance was begun before knowledge of the reward and completed afterwards, the person rendering the performance was entitled to recover." The court determined that the "facts of the instant case do not bring it within the comprehension of the rule generally accepted by the courts" especially since "the terms of the statute and the offer of the reward made pursuant to it are prospective." Additionally, "[t]he reward is for the person 'who shall give information leading to the arrest and conviction' of the guilty person. The manifest purpose of the statute was to elicit information not already available.  It was not its purpose to provide recompense to one who had wholly performed before the offer was made."

    Discussion. This case illustrates how an offer must be accepted in the realm of a reward offered by the government for information about a crime.


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