Friday, November 15, 2013

Bell v. State case brief

Bell v. State case brief summary
63 Tenn. 426 (1874)

Defendant appealed from the judgment of the Criminal Court of Montgomery County (Tennessee), which convicted him, after a jury trial, of petit larceny, for stealing as charged, cabbage and sweet potatoes, the goods and chattels of the prosecutor. Defendant was sentenced to the penitentiary for one year.


  • Defendant claimed that the charge of the criminal court was erroneous in defining petit larceny. 
  • The instruction defined the offenses and instructed the jury on the difference between grand and petit larceny. 
  • In the definition of personal property, the criminal court stated that the prosecutor's vegetables were personal property and the subject of larceny if defendant took them by digging them out of the prosecutor's garden. 
  • Reversing, the court determined that the jury instructions were erroneous. 
  • If the severance of personal property and its asportation were one continuous act, then only a trespass was committed. 
  • If the severance was an act of another or a previous act of defendant who later took the property away as a separate act, then it was larceny. 
  • The acts of defendant in digging up potatoes and cutting cabbages and taking them away were continuous acts. 
  • He was not guilty of larceny. 
  • Although defendant held the severed property, he could not be convicted of larceny but only of trespass.

The court reversed the judgment of the criminal court.

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