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Opinion of the Court.

evidence to suppose that Taylor had absented himself froin the trial at the instance, by the procurement or with the assent of either of the accused. Nor (if that were material) did his disappearance occur so long prior to his being called as a witness is to justify the conclusion that he had gone out of the State and was permanently beyond the jurisdiction of the court. Ilis absence, as already said, was plainly to be attributed to the negligence of the prosecution. The case is not within any of the recognized exceptions to the general rule prescribed in the Constitution.

It is suggested that the action of the Circuit Court was in harmony with the decisions of the Supreme Court of Alabama. Lowe v. State, 86 Ala. 47; Pruitt v. State, 92 Ala. 41. We have examined the cases in that court to which attention has been called, and do not think they sustain the ruling of the court below under the circumstances disclosed by this record. But the question cannot be made to depend upon the rules of criminal evidence prevailing in the courts of the State in which the crime was committed. It must be determined with reference to the rights of the accused as secured by the Constitution of the United States. That instrument must control the action of the courts of the United States in all criminal prosecutions before them. We are unwilling to hold it to be consistent with tue constitutional requirement that an accused shall be confronted with the witnesses against him, to permit the deposition or statement of an absent witness (taken at an examining trial) to be read at the final trial when it does not appear that the witness was absent by the suggestion, connivance or procurement of the accused, but does appear that his absence was due to the negligence of the prosecution. We need not decide more in the present case.

For the error referred to the judgment of the Circuit Court must be reversed as to all the plaintiffs in error and a new trial awarded, except as to Columbus W. Motes. The case as to him rests upon peculiar grounds, because of his testimony on behalf of the accused at the final trial. He testified : “My name is Columbus W. Motes; I am about thirty years old. I know the defendants who are on trial for the inurder of W. A.

Opinion of the Court.

Thompson; I knew Thompson, and know when and where he was killed; I also know who killed him. He was killed on March 14th last, near his home, by myself and William Robert Taylor. No other person had anything whatever to do with it. I went to Taylor's house on March 13th, 1898, just after he had returned from Birmingham, where he had been attending the United States court as defendant. We were both under indictment in the United States court at Birmingham for illicit distilling. Taylor attended court and I did not. W. A. Thompson was a witness against both of us, but I did not know who reported us. Taylor told me on the 13th of March, the day he got home from the United States court at Birmingham, that he got our cases continued on March 12th, 1898, until the next term of the court. We then and there agreed to kill Thompson to keep him from appearing as a witness against us at the next term of the court. We agreed to kill him on the next day as he came from Sylacauga, so the neighbors would think he was killed by Dodge Blankenship and Ad Smith, who only a few days before that time had been arrested and bound over for illicit distilling. We took my gun, a rifle, and went to the place where we knew Thompson would pass and waited until he came along. Taylor shot him three times with the rifle. I was watching, according to the agreement between us, to see if any person saw us. The third shot is the one that killed him. The bullet entered his forehead. After we killed him, which was about the middle of the evening, we got his money out of his pockets, eighteen dollars, all in two-dollar bills, and the next morning we hid it in a tree near Taylor's house. Neither John Littlejohn, Dodge Blankenship, Walter Motes or Jasper knew anything about our plans to kill Thompson, were not present when he was killed, and had nothing whatever to do with the murder."

In this evidence the jury had conclusive proof of the guilt of Columbus W. Motes of the crime charged in the indictment. The admission of the statement of Taylor in evidence was, therefore, of no consequence as to him; for in his own testimony enough was stated to require a verdict of guilty as to him, even if the jury had disregarded Taylor's statements


altogether. We can therefore say, upon the record before us, that the evidence furnished by Taylor's statement was not so materially to the prejudice of Columbus W. Motes as to justify a reversal of the judgment as to him. It would be trifling with the administration of the criminal law to award him a new trial because of a particular error committed by the trial court, when in effect he has stated under oath that he was guilty of the charge preferred against him.

It is proper to say that there are other questions of a serious character raised by the assignment of errors. But as those questions may not arise upon another trial, we do not now consider them.

The judgment as to Columbus Winchester Motes is affirmed, but the judgment as to all the other plaintiffs in error is reversed, with directions to grant a new trial and for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.




No. 116. Submitted February 2, 1900.- Decided May 28, 1900.

An applicant for public land under the act of Congress of June 3, 1878,

29 Stat. 89, c. 151, known as the Timber and Stone Act, must support his application by an affidavit stating that “he does not apply to purchase the same on speculation, but in good faith to appropriate it to his own exclusive use and benefit; and that he has not, directly or indirectly, made any agreement or contract, in any way or manner, with any person or persons whatsoever, by which the title which he might acquire from the Government of the United States should inure, in whole or in part, to the benefit of any person except himself; which statement must be verified by the oath of the applicant before the register or receiver of the land office within the district where the land is situated." The same act provides: “If any person taking such oath shall swear falsely in the premises, he shall be subject to all the pains and penalties of perjury, and shall forfeit the money which he may have paid for said lands, and

Counsel for Appellant.

all right and title to the same; and any grant or conveyance which he may have made, except in the hands of bona fide purchasers, shall be null

and void.” An entryman under this act acquires only an equity, and a purchaser from

him cannot be regarded as a bona fide purchaser within the meaning of the act of Congress unless he become such after the Government, by issuing a patent, has parted with the legal title. A construction of the above act long recognized and acted upon by the Interior Department should not be overthrown unless a different one is

plainly required by the words of the act. The result of the decisions of this court in relation to the jurisdiction of the Land Department when dealing with the public lands is as follows: (1) That the Land Department of the Government has the power and authority to cancel and annul an entry of public land when its officers are convinced, upon a proper showing, that the same was fraudulently made; (2) that an entryman upon the public lands only secures a vested interest in the land when he has lawfully entered upon and applied for the same, and in all respects complied with the requirements of the law; (3) that the Land Department has control over the disposition of the public lands until a patent has been issued therefor and accepted by the patentee; and (4) that redress can always be had in the courts where the officers of the Land Department have withheld from a preëmptioner his rights, where they have misconstrued the law, or where any fraud or

deception has been practiced which affected their judgment and decision. The principle reaffirmed that where the matters determined by the Land

Office " are not properly before the Department, or its conclusions have been reached from a misconstruction by its officers of the law applicable to the cases before it, and it has thus denied to parties rights which, upon a correct construction, would have been conceded to them, or where misrepresentations and fraud have been practiced, necessarily affecting its judgment, then the courts can, in a proper proceeding, interfere and control its determination so as to secure the just rights of parties inju

riously affected.” Sections 2450 to 2457 inclusive of the Revised Statutes, relating to suspended

entries of public lands and to suspended land claims, and which sections require certain matters to be passed upon by a Board consisting of the Secretary of the Interior and the Attorney General, construed and held to apply only to decisions of the Land Office sustaining irregular entries, and not to decisions rejecting and cancelling such entries under the general authority conferred upon the Land Department in respect to the public lands.

The case is stated in the opinion of the court.

Mr. Charles K. Jenner for appellants. Mr. A. B. Browne was with him.

Opinion of the Court.

No brief filed for appellee.

MR. JUSTICE Harlan delivered the opinion of the court.

This case involves a claim to a tract of land arising out of an entry made under the act of Congress of June 3, 1878, c. 151, entitled “ An act for the sale of timber lands in the States of California, Oregon, Nevada and in Washington Territory,” known as the Timber and Stone Act. 20 Stat. 89.

The act in its first section provided for the sale at a named price and in quantities not exceeding one hundred and sixty acres to any person or association of persons of surveyed public lands in the States and Territory named, not included within the military, Indian and other reservations, and which were " valuable chiefly for timber, but unfit for cultivation." It also provided for the sale of lands“ valuable chiefly for stone” on the same terms as timber lands.

By the second section of the act it was provided : “Ş 2. That any person desiring to avail himself of the provisions of this act shall file with the register of the proper district a written statement in duplicate, one of which is to be transmitted to the General Land Office, designating by legal subdivisions the particular tract of land he desires to purchase, setting forth that the same is unfit for cultivation, and valuable chiefly for its timber or stone; that it is uninhabited; contains no mining or other improvements, except for ditch or canal purposes, where any such do exist, save such as were made by or belonging to the applicant, nor, as deponent verily believes, any valuable deposit of gold, silver, cinnabar, copper or coal; that deponent has made no other application under this act; that he does not apply to purchase the same on speculation, but in good faith to appropriate it to his own exclusive use and benefit; and that he has not, directly or indirectly, made any agreement or contract, in any way or manner, with any person or persons whatsoever, by which the title which he might acquire from the Government of the United States should inure, in whole or in part, to the benefit of any person except himself; which statement must be verified by the oath of the applicant before the

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