State v. Helmenstein

163 N.W.2d 85 (N.D. 1968)



A conviction may not be had upon the testimony of an accomplice unless his testimony is corroborated by such other evidence as tends to connect the defendant with the commission of the offense, and the corroboration is not sufficient if it merely shows the commission of the offense or the circumstances thereof. N.D. Cent. Code § 29-21-14


A case was filed against a man for burglary of a grocery store. Trial by jury was waived by consent of the defendant and the State's Attorney, expressed in open court and entered on the minutes of the court, as provided for in law. After trial, the court found the defendant guilty of the offense as charged. On appeal to the Supreme Court of North Dakota, the defendant asserted the trial court erred in denying his motion to sequester the witnesses for the State. He also argued that there was no corroboration of testimony of witnesses for the State who were his accomplices and, thus, the evidence against him was insufficient under the law to convict him of burglary.


Was the conviction proper?




The court held that there was no evidence, other than that of persons who were accomplices, connecting defendant with the commission of the offense with which he was charged. Therefore, the evidence against him was insufficient. The court found that while testimony of a witness given at a preliminary hearing ordinarily was not admissible except for impeachment purposes, one of the State witnesses, as evidenced by his testimony, clearly demonstrated that he was concerned in the commission of the offense. He helped make up a story to mislead investigating officers after the burglary was completed and indicated that there was a common plan of several persons to do an unlawful act, to which all agreed.

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