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SELMAR AKERSon of Quincy, indicted in Norfolk County, December, 1903, for the murder of her infant child, at Quincy, Sept. 10, 1903. She was arraigned Dec. 14, 1903, and pleaded not guilty. No further action has been taken. The case is in charge of District Attorney Asa P. French.
ANGLES SNELL, indicted in Bristol County, November, 1903, for the murder of Tillinghast Kirby. He was arraigned Nov. 18, 1903, and pleaded not guilty. Hugo A. Dubuque and James P. Doran were assigned by the court as counsel for the defendant. No further action has been taken. The case is in charge of District Attorney James M. Swift.
JOHN E. GALLAGHER of Taunton, indicted in Bristol County, February, 1900, for the murder of Joseph F. McMahon, at Taunton, Nov. 21, 1899. He was arraigned April 22, 1903, and pleaded not guilty. Milton Reed and Harold F. Hathaway were assigned as counsel for the defendant. No further action has been taken. The case is in charge of District Attorney James M. Swift.
PAYMENT OF DAMAGES FOR PROPERTIES TAKEN
RIGHT OF EMINENT DOMAIN. I urge, as of the utmost importance to the interests of the Commonwealth and of municipalities as well, the enactment of a law authorizing the payment or tender of such sum of money in damages as may be considered by the Commonwealth or a municipality adequate compensation for property taken under the right of eminent domain; and that petitioners shall recover no interest after such offer, tender or payment, except upon such sum in damages as shall, upon final award, exceed the amount of such offer, tender or payment. By reason of delays, in part caused by the congested state of the dockets of the Superior Court, in part because of conditions inevitable in all litigation, and in part because many petitioners are quite content complacently to endure, and to encourage, postponement in the settlement of claims which, until final adjudication, bear interest constantly accruing at a rate which insures an investment of rare excellence, enormous sums of interest are annually added to the public burdens, and the condition must continue unless some change be made in the law. Obviously, in almost every such case awaiting trial, the only issue to be determined is the amount to which the petitioner is rightfully entitled, there being some sum concededly due. The respondent ought not to be compelled to pay interest on an admitted liability, immediate payment of which is suspended only because the petitioner claims the amount to be insufficient. The suggested legislation would be of practical and substantial benefit to those persons of small means whose property has been taken, who, until payment is made, may be deprived of their resources. Such persons would thus be immediately provided with part, at least, of the amount to which they are entitled, without suffering any prejudice to their right to recover any further damages to which they may be entitled. Interest ought never to be recoverable upon any obligations except such as are disputed, or upon which payment is postponed by the debtor.
THE ACCUMULATION OF BUSINESS IN THE SUPERIOR COURT.
It is apparent that the Legislature must consider, and, at no distant day, take action upon, some plan to substantially relieve the congested condition of business in the Superior Court. No improvement in this respect can be reasonably expected with the present force of justices. Material benefit would result if some of the present duties of the court were transferred to other tribunals, or if the jurisdiction of the latter were extended. To that end, I renew my former recommendation, that exclusive original jurisdiction be conferred upon the Court of Land Registration upon petitions for quieting real estate titles, and upon writs of entry, adequate provision being made for appeal, upon actual questions of fact, to the Superior Court, exceptions and reports upon questions of law to be taken directly to the Supreme Judicial Court.
And I invite the very careful consideration of the General Court to the question whether it is not advisable and appropriate to confer upon the Probate Court original and exclusive jurisdiction upon libels for divorce and petitions for the annulment of marriage.
I suggest that good reason exists for relieving the Superior Court from the duty of approving the by-laws of towns, not only because that court would be so freed from this not very onerous burden, but rather because there is doubt, at least, as to its constitutional power to exercise a function that may be held to be legislative rather than judicial.
It has come to my knowledge that immediate action is required to provide sufficient accommodations for the Superior Court in Suffolk County, as the additional sessions which the present business seems to require cannot, under existing conditions, well be attempted, and those sessions now required by statute cannot be held with reasonable convenience. Business has already accumulated in three counties of the Commonwealth to such an extent as to threaten, and even present, serious embarrassment and delay to litigants, for which little prospect of relief appears, and a like condition is becoming imminent in another county.
SITTINGS OF THE SUPERIOR COURT IN BERKSHIRE COUNTY.
I am informed that a change in the sittings of the Superior Court for civil business in Berkshire County is deemed imperative, and I recommend that the three sittings for civil business now provided for be abolished, and in lieu thereof there shall be two sittings, one to be held beginning on the first Monday in April, and the other on the first Monday of October.
COMPENSATION OF STENOGRAPHERS. It appears that the statutory provisions with regard to compensation of court stenographers for transcripts of evidence should be amended and perfected, the provisions now obtaining not being consistent, and not ensuring to the stenographers in different sessions a uniform compensation. CAPITAL TRIALS. I renew the recommendations heretofore made by me, that the statutes be so amended that capital trials may be conducted by one or more justices of the Superior Court, rather than by two or more, as now required. The reasons which seem to me to render this change in the law advisable were briefly set forth in my former report. The number of justices available for the routine duties of the court ought not to be diminished, except for imperative reasons, since these duties demand the constant service of every member of the court in uninterrupted assignments, which, notwithstanding the addition of two justices by the Legislature of last year, already appear to be inadequate to expeditiously dispose of the cases awaiting trial. The conditions already existing, and emphasized by the additional sessions required by the act of 1903, and the assured increase in the number of cases, make it of the utmost importance to relieve the justices of every duty not peremptorily required by the proper administration of the law.
There appears to me no sufficient reason requiring the attendance of two justices in a capital case, but the law should be so framed as to permit such assignment, if any extraordinary circumstance demands it. The proposed change in the law will in no wise impair any right, or remove any just protection, of the accused.
PROCEDURE IN CASES OF MURDER IN THE SECOND DEGREE.
Under the provisions of the Revised Laws, codifying and simplifying criminal procedure, indictments for murder in the second degree may be now found and trial proceed upon that charge, without adhering to the ancient common law rule which required the degree of murder to be found by the jury, and made it necessary to present all indictments for murder as of the first degree. By reason of this very wise modification of the law, approved by a recent decision of the Supreme Court, unnecessary formalities in the trial of cases which are not above the second degree are obviated, to the great relief of the court, and it is now unnecessary for the prosecuting officers to deal with such homicides as capital cases. Murder in the first degree, as determined and defined by the action of juries, appears to be a crime of infrequent occurrence in this Commonwealth; and, while I believe that the law should still recognize murder in the first degree as a capital crime, I anticipate that comparatively few cases will be so defined in indictments, or require trial upon such presentment.
THE BERTILLON SYSTEM. I recommend the extension of the Bertillon system of measurement and records to all persons convicted and committed on sentences for felony. At present the law requires such record and measurement only in cases where the sentence imposed is for a term of imprisonment of not less than three years for felony. The adoption of this recommendation would tend, in my judgment, to the better protection of the public, and would aid the courts in imposing adequate sentence. In many cases a criminal remains unidentified, and courts and prosecuting officers are ignorant of the fact that the defendant has, as is often the case, been previously convicted of felony. Such convicts, moving from State to State or from county to county, for the purpose of avoiding identification, are often dealt with, from lack of full knowledge, as first offenders, and thus escape exemplary punishment, which they deserve and which justice requires.
COMMITMENTS TO INSANE ASYLUMS. Believing that persons found not guilty on charges of crime, solely by reason of insanity, should be committed to the department for the criminal insane at Bridgewater, I deem it my duty to renew my recommendation to that effect submitted in my last report. If an institution is to be maintained for the confinement of the so-called criminal insane, it is clear that the class of persons to which I have referred should be there committed. Whether there is any moral distinction to be made between those unfortunates who are of diseased mind, by which some are to be held criminals because of acts for which the law holds them irresponsible,