Definition of INFAMY


INFAMY

crim. law, evidence. That state which is produced by the
conviction of crime and the loss of honor, which renders the
infamous person incompetent as a witness.

2. It is to be considered, 1st. What crimes or punishment
incapacitate a witness. 2d. How the guilt is to be proved. 3d. How
the objection answered. 4th. The effect of infamy.

3. - 1. When a man is convicted of an offence which is
inconsistent with the common principles of honesty and humanity,
the law considers his oath to be of no weight, and excludes his
testimony as of too doubtful and suspicious a nature to be admitted
in a court of justice to deprive another of life, liberty or
property. Gilb. L. E. 256; 2 Bulst. 154; 1 Phil. 23; Bull. N. P.
291. The crimes which render a person incompetent, are treason; 5
Mod. 16, 74; felony; 2 Bulst. 154; Co. Litt. 6; T. Raym. 369; all
offences founded in fraud, and which come within the general.
notion of the crimen falsi of the Roman law; Leach, 496; as perjury
and forgery; Co. Litt. 6; Fort. 209; piracy 2 Roll. Ab. 886;
swindling, cheating; Fort. 209; barratry; 2 Salk. 690; and the
bribing a witness to absent himself from a trial, in order to get
rid of his evidence. Fort. 208. It is the crime and not the
punisshment which renders the offender unworthy of belief. 1 Phill.
Ev. 25.

4. - 2. In order to incapacitate the party, the judgment must be
proved as pronounced by a court possessing competent jurisdiction.
1 Sid. 51; 2 Stark. C. 183; Stark. Ev. part 2, p. 144, note 1; Id.
part 4, p. 716. But it has been held that a conviction of an
infamous crime in another country, or another of the United States,
does not render the witness incompetent on the ground of infamy. 17
Mass. 515. Though this doctrine appears to be at variance with the
opinions entertained by foreign jurists, who maintain that the
state or condition of a person in the place of his domicil
accompanies him everywhere. Story, Confl. 620, and the
authorities there cited; Foelix, Trait De Droit Intern. Priv, 31;
Merl. Rpert, mot Loi, 6, n. 6.

5. - 3. The objection to competency may be answered, 1st. By
proof of pardon. See Pardon. And, 2d. By proof of a reversal by
writ of error, which must be proved by the production of the
record.

6. - 4. The judgment for an infamous crime, even for perjury,
does not preclude the party from making an affidavit with a view to
his own defence. 2 Salk. 461 2 Str. 1148; Martin s Rep. 45. He may,
for instance, make an affidavit in relation to the irregularity of
a judgment in a cause in which he, is a party, for otherwise he
would be without a remedy. But the rule is confined to defence, and
he cannot be heard upon oath as complainant. 2 Salk. 461 2 Str.
1148. When the witness becomes incompetent from infamy of
character, the effect is the same as if he were dead and if he has
attested any instrument as a witness, previous to his conviction,
evidence may be given of his handwriting. 2 Str. 833; Stark. Ev.
part. 2, sect. 193; Id. part 4, p. 723.

7. By infamy is also understood the expressed opinion of men
generally as to the vices of another. Wolff, Dr. de la Nat. et des
Gens, 148.

Source: Bouviers Law Dictionary 1856 Edition

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