Imágenes de páginas

Opinion of the Court.

merits, on a former trial; but such acquittal may be pleaded by him in bar of any subsequent prosecution for the same offence, notwithstanding any defect in the form or in the substance of the indictment on which he was acquitted. If any person, who is indicted for an offence, shall on his trial be acquitted upon the ground of a variance between the indictment and the proof, or upon any exception to the form or to the substance of the indictment, he may be arraigned again on a new indictment, and may be tried and convicted for the same offence, notwithstanding such former acquittal." Similar statutes have been passed in other States. 1 Lead. Crim. Cas. (2d ed.) 532.

The American decisions in which the English doctrine has been followed have been based upon the English authorities, with nothing added by way of reasoning.

After the full consideration which the importance of the question demands, that doctrine appears to us to be unsatisfactory in the grounds on which it proceeds, as well as unjust in its operation upon those accused of crime; and the question being now for the first time presented to this court, we are unable to resist the conclusion that a general verdict of acquittal upon the issue of not guilty to an indictment undertaking to charge murder, and not objected to before the verdict as insufficient in that respect, is a bar to a second indictment for the same killing.

The Constitution of the United States, in the Fifth Amendment, declares, “nor shall any person be subject to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." The prohibition is not against being twice punished, but against being twice put in jeopardy; and the accused, whether convicted or acquitted, is equally put in jeopardy at the first trial. An acquittal before a court having no jurisdiction is, of course, like all the proceedings in the case, absolutely void, and therefore no bar to subsequent indictment and trial in a court which has jurisdiction of the offence. Commonwealth v. Peters, 12 Met. 387; 2 Hawk. P. C. c. 35, § 3; 1 Bishop's Crim. Law, § 1028. But although the indictment was fatally defective, yet, if the court had jurisdiction of the cause and of the party, its judgment

Opinion of the Court.

is not void, but only voidable by writ of error; and, until so avoided, cannot be collaterally impeached. If the judgment is upon a verdict of guilty, and unreversed, it stands good, and warrants the punishment of the defendant accordingly, and he could not be discharged by a writ of habeas corpus. Ex parte Parks, 93 U. S. 18. If the judgment is upon an acquittal, the defendant, indeed, will not seek to have it reversed; and the government cannot. United States v. Sanges, 144 U. S. 310. But the fact that the judgment of a court having jurisdiction of the case is practically final affords no reason for allowing its validity and conclusiveness to be impugned in another case.

The former indictment set forth a charge of murder, although lacking the requisite fulness and precision. The verdict of the jury, after a trial upon the issue of guilty or not guilty, acquitted Millard F. Ball of the whole charge, of murder, as well as of any less offence included therein. Rev. Stat. § 1035. That he was thereupon discharged by the Circuit Court by reason of his acquittal by the jury, and not by reason of any insufficiency in the indictment, is clearly shown by the fact that the court, by the same order which discharged him, committed the other defendants, found guilty by the same verdict, to custody to await sentence, and afterwards adjudged them guilty and sentenced them to death upon that indictment. Millard F. Ball's acquittal by the verdict of the jury could not be deprived of its legitimate effect by the subsequent reversal by this court of the judgment against the other defendants upon the writ of error sued out by them only.

It is true that the verdict finding John C. Ball and Robert E. Boutwell guilty as charged in the indictment, and finding Millard F. Ball not guilty, was returned on Sunday; as well as that the order thereupon made by the court, by which it was considered that the first two defendants were guilty as charged in the indictment and found by the jury, and be remanded to custody to await the judgment and sentence of the court, and that Millard F. Ball be discharged and go without day, was made on the same day. That order, indeed, as al

Opinion of the Court.

ready adjudged by this court, could not have effect as a judg ment against the two defendants who had been convicted, because no judgment can lawfully be entered on Sunday. Ball v. United States, 140 U. S. 118, 131; 3 Bl. Com. 277. But when a case is committed to the jury on Saturday, their verdict may be received and the jury discharged on Sunday. This has been generally put upon the ground that the reception of the verdict and discharge of the jury is but a ministerial act, involving no judicial discretion; or that it is an act of necessity; and it certainly tends to promote the observance of the day more than would keeping the jury together until Monday. Hoghtaling v. Osborn, 15 Johns. 119; Van Riper v. Van Riper, 1 Southard, (4 N. J. Law,) 156; Huidekoper v. Cotton, 3 Watts, 56; Baxter v. People, 3 Gilman, 368, 385; Hiller v. English, 4 Strob. 486; Cory v. Silcox, 5 Indiana, 370; Webber v. Merrill, 34 N. H. 202; Reid v. State, 53 Alabama, 402; Meece v. Commonwealth, 78 Kentucky, 586, 588; State v. Ford, 37 La. Ann. 443, 466.

As to the defendant who had been acquitted by the verdict duly returned and received, the court could take no other action than to order his discharge. The verdict of acquittal was final, and could not be reviewed, on error or otherwise, without putting him twice in jeopardy, and thereby violating the Constitution. However it may be in England, in this country a verdict of acquittal, although not followed by any judgment, is a bar to a subsequent prosecution for the same offence. United States v. Sanges, 144 U. S. 310; Commonwealth v. Tuck, 20 Pick. 356, 365; West v. State, 2 Zabriskie, (22 N. J. Law,) 212, 231; 1 Lead. Crim. Cas. 532.

For these reasons, the verdict of acquittal was conclusive in favor of Millard F. Ball; and as to him the judgment must be reversed, and judgment rendered for him upon his plea of former acquittal.

It therefore becomes unnecessary to consider any of the other questions raised at the trial which affect Millard F. Ball only; and we proceed to consider those affecting the other defendants, John C. Ball and Robert E. Boutwell.

Their plea of former conviction cannot be sustained, because .

Opinion of the Court.

upon a writ of error sued out by themselves the judgment and sentence against them were reversed, and the indictment ordered to be dismissed. How far, if they had taken no steps to set aside the proceedings in the former case, the verdict and sentence therein could have been held to bar a new indictment against them need not be considered, because it is quite clear that a defendant, who procures a judgment against him upon an indictment to be set aside, may be tried anew upon the same indictment, or upon another indictment, for the same offence of which he had been convicted. Hopt v. Utah, 10± U. S. 631; 110 U. S. 574; 114 U. S. 488; 120 U. S. 430; Regina v. Drury, 3 Cox Crim. Cas. 544; S. C. 3 Car. & Kirw. 193; Commonwealth v. Gould, 12 Gray, 171. The court therefore rightly overruled their plea of former jeopardy; and cannot have prejudiced them by afterwards permitting them to put in evidence the former conviction, and instructing the jury that the plea was bad.

These two defendants moved that they be tried separately from Millard F. Ball, because he had been previously acquitted; because the government relied on his acts and declarations made after the killing and not in their presence or hearing; and because he was a material witness in their behalf. But the question whether defendants jointly indicted should be tried together or separately was a question resting in the sound discretion of the court below. United States v. Marchant, 12 Wheat. 480. It does not appear that there was any abuse of that discretion in ordering the three defendants to be tried together, or that the court did not duly limit the effect of any evidence introduced which was competent against one defendant and incompetent against the others. See Sparf v. United States, 156 U. S. 51, 58. On the contrary, upon the offer by the United States of evidence of declarations made by Millard F. Ball after the killing and not in the presence of the other defendants, and upon an objection to its admissibility against them, the court at once said, in the presence of the jury, that, of course, it would be only evidence against him, if he said anything; and the court was not afterwards requested to make any further ruling upon this point.

Opinion of the Court.

The exception to the restriction of the cross-examination of Cross and Berney, two material witnesses for the prosecution, cannot be sustained. The court permitted the defendants' counsel, for the purpose of showing bias and prejudice on the part of these witnesses, to ask them whether they had, at their own expense, employed another attorney to assist the District Attorney in the prosecution of this case; and they frankly answered that they had. That fact having been thus proved and admitted, the further question to one of them, "How much do you pay him?" might properly be excluded by the presiding judge as immaterial.

The government introduced evidence tending to show that Box was killed with low-mould buckshot, as he was going home through a cornfield late at night; that he had twelve wounds on his breast, collar bone and hips; that gun wadding was found close to his body; that he was shot with a doublebarrelled, muzzle-loading gun, belonging to the defendant John C. Ball, and which had been in the marshal's exclusive control since the arrest of the defendants; and that this gun scattered low-mould buckshot badly. The defendants introduced evidence that the gun did not scatter such shot; and requested permission of the court to take the gun out and shoot it off in the presence of a deputy marshal, in order to test how it threw such shot. The court denied the request; and the defendants excepted to the denial. The granting or refusal of such a request, first made in the midst of the trial, was clearly within the discretion of the court.

The only grounds of the motion in arrest of judgment, which were argued in this court, were that the indictment did not allege that Box died of the wound charged to have been inflicted upon his body by the defendants; nor that he died at a place within the jurisdiction of the court. But the indictment alleged that the defendants, in Pickens county in the Indian Territory, on June 26, 1889, by shooting with a loaded gun, inflicted upon the body of Box "a mortal wound, of which mortal wound the said William T. Box did languish, and languishing did then and there instantly die." It was thus distinctly and unequivocally alleged that Box died of the


« AnteriorContinuar »