CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.
MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the court.
The question in the case is whether death by the hand of the law in execution of a conviction and sentence for murder, is covered by a policy of life insurance though such manner of death is not excepted from the policy, there being no question of the justness of the sentence.
The case was in equity and brought in the Corporation Court for the city of Charlottesville, State of Virginia, by respondents, children and sole heirs of James S. McCue, by Marshall Dinwiddie, their next friend, upon a policy of life insurance issued to McCue by petitioner, named herein as the insurance company.
The main defense of the insurance company was (there were some technical defenses with which we are not concerned) that McCue came to his death by hanging after conviction and sentence for the murder of his wife.
The suit was brought under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia against the insurance company, the People's National Bank, of Charlottesville; as garnishee, and the executors of McCue's estate.
The case was removed on the petition of the insurance company on the ground of a separable controversy to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Virginia. In that court there was a demurrer filed to the bill which raised the question as to the proper arrangement of the parties and whether the heirs or the executors were the parties to recover on the policy, assuming that the insurance company was liable. In the answer
the same questions were again reised and all liability of the insurance company denied, principally on the ground of the manner by which McCue came to his death.
At the trial the technical defenses were waived and by agreement of the parties the heirs of McCue and is executors were treated as parties plaintiff. The court considering the cause as one at law, and a jury having been waived by the parties, adjudged on the pleadings and an agreed statement of facts, "that the plaintiffs take nothing by their bill, and that said defendant go without day," with costs, the latter to be paid by a deposit made in the registry of the court in refund of the premium paid by McCue, as far as it would go. The judgment was reversed by the Court of Appeals and a new trial ordered. This certiorari was then petitioned for and allowed.
The facts as agreed are these: The insurance company is a corporation duly organized under the laws of Wisconsin and a citizen ad resident thereof. It is a mutual insurance company, with the power and obligations given to and imposed upon it by certain acts of the legislature of Wisconsin, which acts constitute its charter.
The People's National Bank of Charlottesville was made a party solely as garnishee, it having certain sums of money belonging to the insurance company in its possession.
McCue made written application to the insurance company in his own handwriting for the policy in suit, in pursuance of which the policy was issued for the sum of $15,000 on his life. He paid premiums as follows: When the policy was delivered to him he have his note for the sum of $427.50 for the premium to E.L. Carroll and L. Fitzgerald, payable to their order, six months after date, at the Jefferson National Bank, Charlottesville, Virginia. Carroll & Fitzgerald at the time were ...