Book Review: Harold Schechter’s The Devil’s Gentleman

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2 Responses

  1. Dan Jacobs says:

    This sounds like a fascinating read simply based on the social history it constructs. Interestingly enough, there is still legal precedential value to the 1901 case against Molineaux in New York State. These are the famous MIMIC exceptions to the character evidence rule. Perhaps due to the notoriety of the case, these exceptions are known colloquially amongst New York lawyers as the Molineaux exceptions. I’ll quote from a nice little summary of the case from my handy “Evidence in New York State and Federal Courts” by Robert A. Barker and Vincent C. Alexander:

    “In his remarkably researched, instructuve and entertaining opinion in People v. Molineaux,[61 N.E. 286 (1901)] Judge Werner in 1901 analyzed the five exceptions for the admission of uncharged crimes. In that case defendant was charged with the poisoning death of the hapless victim who took a potion disguised as Bromo Seltzer for a headache. At trial, the prosection was allowed to introduce evidence of an earlier poisoning death which was linked to the defendant. A majority of the Court of Appeals found this cause for reversal on the general rule that the prosecution cannot be allowed to prove an uncharged crime for the purpose of producing an inference that defendant must have committed the charged crime – the jury was liable to convict him of the uncharged crime as the charged crime. However, if the uncharged crime had been relevant to some issue other than mere criminal propensity, there might have been grounds for admissibility. Thus, ‘evidence of other crimes is competent to prove the specific crime charged if it tends to establish (1) motive; (2) intent; (3) the absence of mistake or acvcident; (4) a common scheme or plan embracing the commission of two or more crimes so related to each other that proof of one tends to establish the other; (5) the identity of the person charged with the commission of the crime on trial.” – Section 4:16, pg. 183.

    Thought this might be of some interest.

  2. I just bought this book based solely on this posting…and also, because I’m always open to new ideas – Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism”)