In order to predicate error upon the refusal of an instruction, it must be couched in such terms as to be sound to the full extent. It is not error to refuse an instruction, unless it ought to be given precisely in the terms prayed.
Knapp (defendant) stood convicted of murder in the first degree. He claimed self-defense, testifying that he had heard that the deceased had clubbed and seriously injured an old man in arresting him, and that he died a short time afterwards. He contended that it was error to admit rebuttal testimony that the old man died of senility and alcoholism, and that there were no bruises nor marks on his person; that the question was whether he had, in fact, heard the story, and not as to its truth or falsity. The trial court convicted Knapp of murder. Knapp appealed.
Could the falsity of a story that a witness testifies be admitted as evidence?
The Court affirmed Knapp’s conviction. To show that there was no basis in fact for the statement Knapp claimed to have heard had a tendency to make it less probable that his testimony on this point was true. With respect to jury instructions, the Court had the right to choose its own mode of expression.