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Commonwealth v. Knapp

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Brief Fact Summary. This is an excerpt from an opinion of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which determined whether suicide was tantamount to a confession.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Suicide is a confession.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

They added, that it was proper that a person of more legal experience should be assigned, who might render aid to the Court as well as to the prisoner.

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Facts. The defendant, John Francis Knapp (the “defendant”), was tried in 1830, for the murder of Joseph White. The prosecution claimed that the defendant actually aided and abetted Crowninshield, who was actually guilty of the murder. Thus, the prosecution needed to show the guilt of Crowninshield, in order to prove the defendant’s guilt.

Issue. Whether the suicide of a party, whose guilt implicates the defendant, is tantamount to that party’s confession?

Held. Suicide is a form of confession.

Discussion. The best way to understand this excerpt is that it is used in an advisory capacity. It goes into great detail about the thoughts of its author, who believes that no matter what, when a party is guilty they will be discovered-either in life, or by death; however, the passage really only shows those opinions.

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