State v. Aaron

4 N.J.L. 269 (1818)

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State v. Aaron

New Jersey Supreme Court
4 N.J.L. 269 (1818)

Facts

Aaron (defendant), an 11-year-old boy, was indicted for murdering Stephen Conelly, a two-year-old boy, by throwing Conelly into a well. The sides of the well were likely too high for Conelly to climb by himself. Aaron was seen playing with Conelly before Conelly went missing. Aaron told a search party that Conelly had walked off down the road, but after viewing Conelly’s body being removed from the well, Aaron claimed that he had seen Conelly fall in. The coroner and jury questioned Aaron, and he insisted that he was not involved. When the jury visited the well, Aaron’s master and a juror took Aaron aside to speak to him. According to witnesses, the master and juror told Aaron that it was best for him to tell the truth. According to Aaron, they said that the devil would get him if he lied, but if he told the truth, he would not go to jail. Aaron then admitted to lifting Conelly up and over into the well and to seeing Conelly’s body removed from the well. Aaron was jailed and repeated his confession many times over the next month. Aaron recanted at trial, claiming that he confessed because of what the juror and his master told him. Aaron’s confessions were admitted into evidence over his attorney’s objections that the confessions were inadmissible because Aaron was incompetent. The jury found Aaron guilty of murder, and his attorney moved for a new trial. The judge at the trial court chose to have arguments presented to the state supreme court for its opinion.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kirkpatrick, C.J.)

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