Introduction To The Corpus Delicti

The high ground of the field of crime has not been explored; it has

not even been entered. The book stalls have been filled to

weariness with tales based upon plans whereby the DETECTIVE, or

FERRETING power of the State might be baffled. But, prodigious

marvel! no writer has attempted to construct tales based upon plans

whereby the PUNISHING power of the State might be baffled.

The distinction, if one p
uses for a moment to consider it, is

striking. It is possible, even easy, deliberately to plan crimes

so that the criminal agent and the criminal agency cannot be

detected. Is it possible to plan and execute wrongs in such a

manner that they will have all the effect and all the resulting

profit of desperate crimes and yet not be crimes before the law?

We are prone to forget that the law is no perfect structure, that

it is simply the result of human labor and human genius, and that

whatever laws human ingenuity can create for the protection of men,

those same laws human ingenuity can evade. The Spirit of Evil is

no dwarf; he has developed equally with the Spirit of Good.

All wrongs are not crimes. Indeed only those wrongs are crimes in

which certain technical elements are present. The law provides a

Procrustean standard for all crimes. Thus a wrong, to become

criminal, must fit exactly into the measure laid down by the law,

else it is no crime; if it varies never so little from the legal

measure, the law must, and will, refuse to regard it as criminal,

no matter how injurious a wrong it may be. There is no measure of

morality, or equity, or common right that can be applied to the

individual case. The gauge of the law is iron-bound. The wrong

measured by this gauge is either a crime or it is not. There is no

middle ground.

Hence is it, that if one knows well the technicalities of the law,

one may commit horrible wrongs that will yield all the gain and all

the resulting effect of the highest crimes, and yet the wrongs

perpetrated will constitute no one of the crimes described by the

law. Thus the highest crimes, even murder, may be committed in

such manner that although the criminal is known and the law holds

him in custody, yet it cannot punish him. So it happens that in

this year of our Lord of the nineteenth century, the skillful

attorney marvels at the stupidity of the rogue who, committing

crimes by the ordinary methods, subjects himself to unnecessary

peril, when the result which he seeks can easily be attained by

other methods, equally expeditious and without danger of liability

in any criminal tribunal. This is the field into which the author

has ventured, and he believes it to be new and full of interest.

It may be objected that the writer has prepared here a text-book

for the shrewd knave. To this it is answered that, if he instructs

the enemies, he also warns the friends of law and order; and that

Evil has never yet been stronger because the sun shone on it.

[See Lord Hale's Rule, Russell on Crimes. For the law in New York

see 18th N. Y. Reports, 179; also N. Y. Reports, 49, page 137. The

doctrine there laid down obtains in almost every State, with the

possible exception of a few Western States, where the decisions are