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PIERCE v. CREECY

decided: June 1, 1908.

PIERCE
v.
CREECY, CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI.

Author: Moody

[ 210 U.S. Page 400]

 MR. JUSTICE MOODY, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

The first inquiry must be whether there is jurisdiction of this appeal, which was taken from the Circuit Court directly to this court. Since the passage of the act establishing the Circuit Court of Appeals (26 Stat. 826), appeals in habeas corpus cases from the District and Circuit Courts can only be taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals, unless they are of the kind specified in § 5 of the act, wherein a direct appeal to this court is allowed. In re Lennon, 150 U.S. 393. Of the latter class is "any case that involves the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States." In the case at bar the position of the appellant is that his detention in custody is unlawful, because the indictment, which is its only excuse, is not a charge of crime within the meaning of the provision of the Constitution regulating interstate extradition. Art. IV, § 2, par. 2. The precise and only question to be determined is whether the indictment constituted such a charge. The decision of this question requires us to ascertain and declare the meaning of the extradition clause, and therefore "involves the construction of the Constitution of the United States." Craemer v. Washington, 168 U.S. 124; Boske v. Comingore, 177 U.S. 459. And see Wiley v. Sinkler, 179 U.S. 58; Motes v. United States, 178 U.S. 458; Cummings v. Chicago, 188 U.S. 410. Against this view it is argued that the question whether this indictment is good under the laws of Texas brings under consideration only the laws of that State, and that, as there is no pretense that they violate the Constitution of the United States, there can be involved no construction or application of that Constitution. But the answer to this is that the laws of Texas are considered only as they are embraced in the ultimate inquiry whether the indictment constitutes a charge of crime in that State, and for no other purpose. It is further said by the appellee that the delivery up in this case was by virtue of state laws only, and we are invited to determine how far the State may make

[ 210 U.S. Page 401]

     laws for interstate extradition, independent of, though consistent with, the Federal Constitution. We decline to accept the invitation, because in the case at bar the demand of the Governor of Texas, which was compiled with, was expressed to be "in pursuance of the provisions of the Constitution and laws of the United States." There is jurisdiction of the appeal.

The Constitution provides that "A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime." No person may be lawfully removed from one State to another by virtue of this provision, unless: 1, He is charged in one State with treason, felony or other crime; 2, he has fled from justice; 3, a demand is made for his delivery to the State wherein he is charged with crime. If either of these conditions are absent the Constitution affords no warrant for a restraint of the liberty of any person. Here the only condition which it is insisted is absent is the charge of a crime. The only evidence of a charge of crime is the indictment, and the contention to be examined is that the indictment is insufficient proof that a charge has been made.

The counsel for the petitioner disclaim the purpose of attacking the indictment as a criminal pleading, appreciating correctly that the point here is not whether the indictment is good enough, over seasonable challenge, to bring the accused to the bar for trial. Counsel concede that they cannot successfully attack the indictment except by showing that it does not charge a crime. The distinction between these two kinds of attack, though narrow, is clear. But it will not do to disclaim the right to attack the indictment as a criminal pleading and then proceed to deny that it constitutes a charge of crime for reasons that are apt only to destroy its validity as a criminal pleading. There must be objections which reach deeper into the indictment than those which would be good against it in the court where it is pending. We are unable to adopt the test

[ 210 U.S. Page 402]

     suggested by counsel, that an objection, good if taken on arrest of judgment, would be sufficient to show that the indictment is not a charge of crime. Not to speak of the uncertainty of such a test, in view of the varying practice in the different States, there is nothing in principle or authority which supports it. Of course, such a test would be utterly inapplicable to cases of a charge of crime by affidavit, which was held to be within the Constitution. In the Matter of Strauss, 197 U.S. 324. The only safe rule is to abandon entirely the standard to which the indictment must conform, judged as a criminal pleading, and consider only whether it shows satisfactorily that the fugitive has been in fact, however inartificially, charged with crime in the State from which he has fled. Roberts v. Reilly, 116 U.S. 80, 95; Pearce v. Texas, 155 U.S. 311, 313; Hyatt v. Corkran, 188 U.S. 691, 709; Munsey v. Clough, 196 U.S. 364, 372; Davis's Case, 122 Massachusetts, 324; State v. O'Connor, 38 Minnesota, 243; State v. Goss, 66 Minnesota, 291; Matter of Voorhees, 32 N.J.L. 141; Ex parte Pearce, 32 Tex. Crim. 301; In re Van Sciever, 42 Nebraska, 772; State v. Clough, 71 N.H. 594.

Before proceeding further, it is well to set forth all the objections to the indictment made by counsel, in order to see whether, if any one of them is well founded, it shows that there was no charge of crime against the petitioner. For if all criticisms of the indictment should be approved, and they leave untouched in the pleading enough to show that the petitioner was charged with crime in the broad and practical sense in which those words ought to be understood, the condition prescribed by the Constitution has been performed.

The objections to the indictment which were advanced in the argument are six in number:

1. The statements in respect to which false swearing is alleged are not statements of facts but of opinion, and therefore, however falsely made, cannot ...


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