Thursday, December 1, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: December 1

December 1, 1916 – In one of its first opinions bearing on the statute to prevent murderers from profiting from their crimes, the Minnesota State Supreme Court today affirmed the decision of the Hennepin County District Court in the action by Lewis Sharpless against the Grand Lodge of A. O. U. W. of Minnesota and Charlotte Sharpless, from which the grand lodge appealed.

Charlotte Sharpless was the beneficiary of a $2,000 certificate of insurance, issued by the Workmen organization on the life of her husband, Leaming Sharpless, and was convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to the state prison.

Leaming Sharpless1

Lewis Sharpless sued, contending that as the woman as beneficiary took the life of the insured, she could not recover and that he, being the brother and only surviving heir at law and next of kin, except the widow, was entitled to the proceeds of the certificate. Mrs. Sharpless admitted the record of her conviction and sentence for the murder but claimed that she was entitled to the proceeds.

The grand lodge held that she had forfeited her rights and therefore it was not liable to either the woman or Lewis Sharpless under its laws. The plaintiff demurred on the ground that it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a defense.

The court holds that by murdering the insured the beneficiary forfeits the right to the proceeds of the policy, but that such murder does not relieve the insurer from liability to others and that in such case the sole heir of the deceased, who would take upon the death of an eligible beneficiary, may recover.

Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Lewis Sharpless Wins Brother’s Insurance. Supreme Court Rules Against the Convicted Widow in Sword Murder Case.”; Dec. 2, 1916; p. 15.

1The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; Dec. 18, 1914

Leaming Sharpless murdered by saber; wife in next room hears nothing; see Nov. 14, 2015 blog.

Blood-stained imprint of fingers on the sword that killed Leaming Sharpless may be the principal means of determining the murderer; see 
Nov. 15, 2015 blog.

Mrs. Sharpless indicted by the Hennepin County Grand Jury for murder in the first degree in the killing of her husband; see Nov. 17, 2015 blog.

Sharpless had two insurance policies for $5,000; made wife beneficiary; see Nov. 23, 2015 blog.

Mrs. Sharpless found guilty of first degree murder; sentenced to life in prison; see Dec. 12, 2015 blog.


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