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Opinion of the Court.
1889, and proceeded from day to day until Saturday, November 2, when the jury retired to consider of their verdict, and no verdict having been returned at the usual hour of adjournment, the court was kept open to receive the verdict. On Sunday, November 3, 1889, the jury returned a verdict as follows: "We, the jury, find the defendants J. C. Ball and R. E. Boutwell guilty, as charged in this indictment; and we find M. Fillmore Ball not guilty." The court, on the same day, made the following order: "It is therefore considered by the court that the defendants J. C. Ball and R. E. Boutwell are guilty, as charged in the indictment herein, and as found by the jury; and it is ordered that they be remanded to the custody of the marshal, and be by him committed to the county jail of Lamar county, to await the judgment and sentence of the court. It is further ordered that the defendant M. F. Ball be discharged and go hence without day."
Afterwards, at the same term, John C. Ball and Robert E. Boutwell were adjudged guilty and sentenced to death, and sued out a writ of error from this court; and in the assignment of errors filed by them in the Circuit Court, (as appears by the record transmitted to this court in that case,) specified, among other things, "because no legal indictment was returned into court against respondents," in that the indictment on which they were tried "nowhere alleges when and where said William T. Box died;" and "for the errors stated and apparent upon the record herein, respondents pray that the judgment be reversed, and the cause remanded for a new trial." And the brief then filed in their behalf concluded by submitting that the judgment ought to be reversed, and the indictment dismissed.
Upon that writ of error, this court, at October term, 1890, held that that indictment, although sufficiently charging an assault, yet, by reason of failing to aver either the time or the place of the death of Box, was fatally defective, and would not support a sentence for murder; and therefore reversed the judgments against John C. Ball and Robert E. Boutwell, and remanded the case with directions to quash the indictment, and to take such further proceedings in relation to them as to
Opinion of the Court.
justice might appertain. Ball v. United States, 140 U. S. 118,
At April term, 1891, of the Circuit Court, that indictment was dismissed; and the grand jury returned against all three defendants a new indictment, (being the one now before the court,) like the former one, except that, after charging the assault, with malice aforethought, and with a loaded gun, upon Box on June 26, 1889, in Pickens county in the Indian Territory, it went on to charge that the three defendants "did then and there shoot off and discharge the contents of said gun at, in and upon the body of said William T. Box, inflicting thereon a mortal wound, of which mortal wound the said William T. Box did languish, and languishing did then and there instantly die, and did then and there die within a year and a day after the infliction of the said mortal wound as aforesaid."
To this indictment the defendant Millard F. Ball filed a plea of former jeopardy and former acquittal, relying upon the trial, the verdict of acquittal, and the order of the court for his discharge, upon the former indictment; a certified copy of the record of the proceedings upon which was annexed to and made part of his plea.
The defendants John C. Ball and Boutwell filed a plea of former jeopardy, by reason of their trial and conviction upon the former indictment, and of the dismissal of that indictment.
Both those pleas were overruled by the court, and the three defendants then severally pleaded not guilty.
At the trial, it appeared that William T. Box was killed on June 26, 1889; the defendants offered in evidence the record of the proceedings upon the former indictment; and it was admitted by all parties that the offence charged in the former indictment and that charged in the present indictment was one and the same transaction and offence, to wit, the killing of Box by the three defendants; that the defendants in the two indictments were the same persons; and that no writ of error was ever sued out upon the judgment or order entered upon the former indictment as to Millard F. Ball.
The Circuit Court, among other instructions, instructed the jury to find against both pleas of former jeopardy, because
Opinion of the Court.
this court had decided that the former indictment was insufficient as an indictment for murder. The jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder against all three defendants; each of them was adjudged guilty accordingly, and sentenced to death; and thereupon they sued out this writ of error.
The first matter to be considered is the effect of the acquittal of Millard F. Ball by the jury upon the trial of the former indictment.
In England, an acquittal upon an indictment so defective that, if it had been objected to at the trial, or by motion in arrest of judgment, or by writ of error, it would not have supported any conviction or sentence, has generally been considered as insufficient to support a plea of former acquittal. 2 Hale P. C. 248, 394; 2 Hawk. P. C. c. 35, § 8; 1 Stark. Crim. Pl. (2d ed.) 320; 1 Chit. Crim. Law, 458; Archb. Crim. Pl. & Ev. (19th ed.) 143; 1 Russell on Crimes, (6th ed.) 48. And the general tendency of opinion in this country has been to the same effect. 3 Greenl. Ev. § 35; 1 Bishop's Crim. Law, § 1021, and cases there cited.
The foundation of that doctrine is Vaux's case, 4 Rep. 44, in which William Vaux, being duly indicted for the murder of Nicholas Ridley by persuading him to drink a poisoned potion, pleaded a former acquittal, the record of which set forth a similar indictment alleging that Ridley, not knowing that the potion was poisoned, but confiding in the persuasion of Vaux, took and drank (without saying "took and drank said potion"); a plea of not guilty; a special verdict, finding that Ridley was killed by taking the poison, and that Vaux was not present when he took it; and a judgment rendered thereon that the poisoning of Ridley and persuading him to take the poison, as found by the verdict, was not murder, and that the defendant go without day—eat sine die. Upon a hearing on the plea of autrefois acquit, the Court of Queen's Bench was of opinion that Vaux was a principal, although not present when Ridley took the poison; but that the indictment was insufficient, for not expressly alleging that Ridley drank the poison; and that "because the indictment in this case was insufficient, for this reason he was not legitimo
Opinion of the Court.
modo acquietatus," "nor was the life of the party, in the judg ment of the law, ever in jeopardy."
Yet the decision in Vaux's case was treated, both by Lord Coke and by Lord Hale, as maintainable only upon the ground that the judgment upon the first indictment was quod eat sine die, which might be given as well for the insufficiency of the indictment, as for the defendant's not being guilty of the offence; and Lord Hale was clearly of opinion that a judg ment quod eat inde quietus could not go to the insufficiency of the indictment, but must go to the matter of the verdict, and would be a perpetual discharge. 3 Inst. 214; 2 Hale P. C. 394, 395. And Mr. Starkie has observed: "The doctrine expounded in this case does not appear to consist with the general principle on which the plea of autrefois acquit is said to depend, since an acquittal upon a special verdict would leave the defendant exposed to a second prosecution, whenever a formal flaw could be detected in the first indictment at any subsequent period." 1 Stark. Crim. Pl. 320, note.
In the leading American case of People v. Barrett, 1 Johns. 66, while a majority of the court, consisting of Chief Justice Kent and Justices Thompson and Spencer, followed the English authorities, Justices Livingston and Tompkins strongly dissented, and their reasons were fully stated by Mr. Justice Livingston, who, after distinguishing cases in which upon the first trial there had been no general verdict of acquittal by the jury, but only a special verdict, upon which the court had discharged the defendant, as well as cases in which the defendant himself had suggested the imperfection in the first indictment, and thereupon obtained judgment in his favor, said: "These defendants have availed themselves of no such imperfection, if any there were, nor has any judgment to that effect been pronounced. This case, in short, presents the novel and unheard of spectacle, of a public officer, whose business it was to frame a correct bill, openly alleging his own inaccuracy or neglect, as a reason for a second trial, when it is not pretended that the merits were not fairly in issue on the first. That a party shall be deprived of the benefit of an acquittal by a jury, on a suggestion of this kind, coming too from the officer
Opinion of the Court.
who drew the indictment, seems not to comport with that universal and humane principle of criminal law, that no man shall be brought into danger more than once for the same offence.' It is very like permitting a party to take advantage of his own wrong. If this practice be tolerated, when are trials of the accused to end? If a conviction take place, whether an indictment be good, or otherwise, it is ten to one that judgment passes; for, if he read the bill, it is not probable he will have penetration enough to discern its defects. His counsel, if any be assigned to him, will be content with hearing the substance of the charge without looking farther; and the court will hardly, of its own accord, think it a duty to examine the indictment to detect errors in it. Many hundreds, perhaps, are now in the state prison on erroneous indictments, who, however, have been fairly tried on the merits. But reverse the case, and suppose an acquittal to take place, the prosecutor, if he be dissatisfied and bent on conviction, has nothing to do but to tell the court that his own indictment was good for nothing; that it has no venue, or is deficient in other particulars, and that, therefore, he has a right to a second chance of convicting the prisoner, and so on, toties quoties.” 1 Johns. 74.
In Commonwealth v. Purchase, 2 Pick. 521, 526, Chief Justice Parker, speaking of the doctrine which allows a man to be tried again after being acquitted on an indictment substantially bad, said that "ingenuity has suggested that he never was in jeopardy, because it is to be presumed that the court will discover the defect in time to prevent judgment;" but that this "is bottomed upon an assumed infallibility of the courts, which is not admitted in any other case."
In the Revised Statutes of Massachusetts of 1836, c. 123, §§ 4, 5, provisions were inserted, which, as the commissioners who reported them said, were "intended to define and determine, as far as may be, the cases in which a former acquittal shall, or shall not, be a bar to a subsequent prosecution for the same offence;" and were as follows: "No person shall be held to answer on a second indictment, for any offence of which he has been acquitted by the jury upon the facts and