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Lasater v. State

Supreme Court of Arizona

July 5, 1938


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of the County of Maricopa. G. A. Rodgers, Judge. Judgment affirmed.

Mr. Marshall W. Haislip and Mr. L. C. McNabb, for Appellant.

Mr. Joe Conway, Attorney General, and Mr. W. E Polley and Mr. J. M. Johnson, his Assistants, for Respondent.


[52 Ariz. 367] ROSS, J.

Millard F. Lasater was convicted of second degree murder and he has appealed contending that the evidence is insufficient to support the verdict and that the court's instructions defining second degree murder were erroneous.

The first of these assignments invites a consideration of the evidence, which is largely circumstantial. The defendant makes no complaint of the court's instructions on circumstantial evidence, nor does he complain of being convicted on that kind of evidence. He admits that such evidence is as valid and dependable as direct evidence but he insists that each and every circumstance must be consistent with each other and also consistent with his guilt and that if [52 Ariz. 368] any one of the circumstances in the chain is not proved beyond a reasonable doubt, or is inconsistent with his guilt, the verdict ought not to stand.

Ted Harris, described as an oil field worker, was killed on the night of December 7th or the morning of December 8, 1937, in Stanley Botkin's or cabin number two in the Corona Auto Court at 1604 East Washington Street, Phoenix. His body was found at 6 A. M., December 8th, lying between the Botkin and another cabin. His throat was cut, the cut severing the jugular vein, and a trial of blood from where the body lay led back into the Botkin cabin indicating the body had been dragged therefrom.

It is undisputed that Stanley Botkin, a disabled war veteran, and L. J. Lewis, an employee in the Corona Auto Court, were in the former's cabin about midnight of the 7th and that defendant and Harris came to the cabin carrying with them a bottle of wine that they had bought on their way at the Corona bar. At that time there were no marks or bruises on defendant's face and no blood on his clothes. These four were, according to the evidence, quite drunk at that hour and continued drinking together until Botkin and Lewis "passed out." Before this happened they took their shoes off but went to bed in their clothes.

Botkin and Lewis testified that before they went to sleep defendant and Harris were engaged in a warm discussion of their experiences in the oil fields of Oklahoma and Texas, where they had worked with each other some previous time or times.

About 2:30 night watchman Walker heard a commotion in the Botkin cabin and looked through a window thereof and saw defendant and somebody, whom he did not recognize, sparring with or striking at each other.

Page 84

At 2:51 defendant appeared again at the Corona cafe bar and, according to the evidence, at this time [52 Ariz. 369] his face was bruised and bleeding; his clothes were dirty and were bloody in front. He bought and drank a cup of coffee, called for a taxi, directed the driver to take him to a non-existent street number where he said his mother lived, gave the driver another non-existent address, and after a futile effort to find his mother the driver requested him to pay his fare, which he refused to do. He was taken by the driver to police headquarters at 3:30 A.M. and booked. He was searched by the police who found on him ten cents and a pocket knife in his right-hand pocket with the large blade open.

On the morning of the 8th soon after Myrtle Griswold, the owner of the Corona cafe came on duty, she espied blood on the sidewalk in front of the Botkin cabin and Harris' body near by and between the Botkin and another cabin. She opened the door of the Botkin cabin, turned on a light and saw Lewis and Botkin were asleep; that the covers on their bed at the foot were very bloody; that splotches of blood were on the bed and on the floor, and a puddle in one place, and on the clothes of Botkin and Lewis. She awoke Lewis and Botkin and told them what had happened. They testified that they knew nothing of the killing and only learned of it when told by Myrtle Griswold.

The shoes defendant was wearing the night of the 7th were introduced in evidence and points of the similarity of one of the heels to a bloody track on the floor of the Botkin ...

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