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No. 11.


ANNUAL REPORT of the Attorney General. Lansing, January, 1859.


SIR-I respectfully submit my report for the years 1856, 1857 and 1858, as required by the Act of April 8, 1851, rolating to the reports of State officers.

The neglect of many of the Prosecuting Attorneys to forward their reports to me have rendered necessary a postponement of my own, somewhat beyond the time fixed by law. The statute requires each Prosecuting Attorney, in the month of November, annually, to transmit to the Attorney General a report of the official business done by him in his county during the preceding year. It will be seen by the document hereunto annexed, marked "Schedule B," that for the year 1856, no report was made for twelve of the organized counties; that for the year 1857, the like default occurred in twenty-six counties, and for the

year 1858, the like in twenty. The county of Wayne, whose criminal business nearly equals in amount that of all the rest of the State, furnished no report whatever for

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the years 1856 and 1857, and an extremly imperfect one for 1858. Jackson and Oakland furnished none for 1857 and 1858. The leading objects of the statute in requiring these reports to be made, are evidently to preserve the statistics of crime and punishment, and to furnish reliable information, not only as to the promptness and vigor with which Prosecuting Attorneys do their duty, but also as to any changes which may be necessary in our criminal code. But it is obvious, that under the imperfect and negligent practice which now prevails to a lamentable extent in the offices of Prosecuting Ataorneys, this source of information is of little value. Although the statute visits every case of neglect with a fine of fifty dollars, and although I have carefully complied with the statute in forwarding blank forms of report to each Prosecuting Attorney, and felt it my duty to report many of them to the County Treasurers for prosecution for delinquency, yet nu instance has come to my knowledge of an action having been brought to collect the penalty.

The document marked "Schedule A," hereto annexed, contains the abstracts of such reports as have reached me for the year 1856, 1857 and 1858. Document marked "Schedule C,"contains a brief recapitulation, derived from the abstracts, of the prosecutions for the crimes of murder, burglary and larceny, for those three years, from which it appears that the number of convictions was five hundred and seventy-one ; of which nineteen were for murder, thirty-nine for burglary, sixteen for burglary and larceny, and four hundred and ninety-seven for larceny. It is to be remarked, however, that the absence of reports renders these numbers but an approximation to the truth.

Observation convinces me that the above named crimes, to which should especially be added counterfeiting, are alarmingly on the increase in the State. One great cause of the increase, and of the impunity of offenders, is undoubtedly found in the weakness and inefficiency of the means of detection and artest. Tne statutes provide no compensation whatever for sheriffs, constables, and other ministerial officers, beyond their mere fees for serving process, for any efforts they may make to bring offenders to justice, allowing them nothing at all for searching out the guilty, or exercising the slightest vigilance in the way of detection or suppression. This is a task which is always sufficiently onerous and unwelcome, and if unrequited, is seldom or never performed gave by persons actually injured by the crime. While bands of thieves, counterfeiters and burglars are formed in our midst, in organized bodies, with signs, tokens and pass-words-with, indeed, a secret vocabulary, and other devices as perfect as the ingenuity of guilt can invent, by which the members mutually recognize and aid each other, and without being suspected-contrive schemes of crime in the very presence of their victims, the law provides no detective means by which their plans can be thwarted, and community guarded against them.

I am of opinion that further legislation on this subject is necessary, and that the law should confer on the Boards of Supervisors authority to provide for the employment of such detective and repressive means as in their good judgment they may doem best suited to the end. That much expense might thus be saved to the counties, much crime punished that would otherwise escape, and much prevented that would otherwise be committed, I entertain no doubt.

In June, 1856, I commenced an action in the Circuit Court for the county of Lenawee, in behalf of the State, against the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad Company, to collect a balance ($3,706 76) of the specific tax on the capital stock and loans of the Company for the year 1855—which balance the Company had refused to pay, under a construction of the charter in which I could not concur. The questions of law arising in the case were reserved by the Circuit Judge for the consideration of the Supreme Court, which at the January term, 1857, upon full argument, decided that the State was entitled to recover the balance. It was paid to the State Treasurer, (Hon. S. M. Holmes) on the 22d of August following. The case is reported in 4 Michigan Reports, p. 398. I may add, that since then other objections have been raised by the Company to the principles insisted upon by the Auditor General in assessing the specific tax upon them; all wbich objections, so far as they have come to my knowledge, were replied to in my letter of advice to him of the 4th of February last, in which I fully stated my views of the proper construction to be given to the several clauses of the charter on which the discussions have arisen touching the specific tax.


I have also appeared for the State in the following cases in the Supreme Court:

The case of John Stewart, indicted, tried and convicted in the Circuit Court of Wayne county, on two indictments, for having in possession counterfeit bills with intent to pass them. Judgment reversed in both cases, at the Oc tober term, 1857, for defects in the indictments.

· Charles Tryon's case.-In which the accused was indicted, tried and convicted in the same circuit for misconduct as an attorney at law. After undergoing a part of the sentence of imprisonment the accused was pardoned by the executive, and shortly afterwards the sentence itself was reversed by the Supreme Court, on error. (4 Mich. R. 665.)

John Adward's case.--Prisoner was charged with ming ling poison with the drink of another, with intent to injure him. Convicted in the Circuit Court for Wayne county, and judgment affirmed in the Supreme Court. (5 Mich. R. 22.)

William Potter's case.Prisoner was indicted for murder in the Circuit Court for Wayne county, tried and convicted. Judgment was reversed in the Supreme Court,

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