134 U.S. 160 (1890), In Re Medley

Citation:134 U.S. 160, 10 S.Ct. 384, 33 L.Ed. 835
Party Name:In re MEDLEY.
Case Date:March 03, 1890
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 160

134 U.S. 160 (1890)

10 S.Ct. 384, 33 L.Ed. 835


United States Supreme Court.

March 3, 1890

Petition for habeas corpus.

BREWER and BRADLEY, JJ., dissenting.


Page 161

[10 S.Ct. 384] A. T. Britton, Henry Wise Garnett, and W. V. R. Berry, for petitioner.

H. M. Teller, for respondents.



This is an application to this court by James J. Medley for a writ of habeas corpus, the object of which is to relieve him from the imprisonment in which he is held by J. A. Lamping, warden of the state penitentiary of the state of Colorado. The petitioner is held a prisoner under sentence of death pronounced by the district court of the second district of the state of Colorado for the county of Arapahoe. The petition of the prisoner sets forth that an indictment for the murder of Ellen Medley, was found against him by the grand jury of Arapahoe county on the 5th day of June, 1889; that the indictment charges petitioner with this murder, which took place on the 13th day of May of that year; that he was tried in said district court on the 24th day of September thereafter, and found guilty by the jury of murder in the first degree; that on the 29th day of November he was sentenced to be remanded to the custody of the sheriff of Arapahoe county, and within 24 hours to be taken by said sheriff and delivered to the warden of the state penitentiary,

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to be kept in solitary confinement until the fourth week of the month of December thereafter, and that then, upon a day and hour to be designated by the warden, he should be taken from said place of confinement to the place of execution, within the confines of the penitentiary, and there hanged be by the neck until he was dead. Copies of the indictment, of the verdict of the jury, and of the sentence of the court are annexed to the petition as exhibits. The petitioner then sets forth that he was sentenced under the statute of Colorado approved April 19, 1889, and which went into effect July 19, 1889, and repealed all acts and parts of former acts inconsistent therewith, without any saving clause, and that the crime on account of which the sentence was passed was charged to be and was actually committed on the 13th day of May of the same year. The petitioner enumerates some 20 variances between the statute in force at the time the crime was committed and that under which he was sentenced to punishment in the present case, all of which are claimed to be changes to his prejudice and injury, and therefore ex post facto, within the meaning of section 10, art. 1, of the copstitution of the United States, which declares that no state shall pass any bill of attainder or ex post facto law. The petitioner applies directly to this court for the writ of habeas corpus, instead of to the circuit court of the United States; because he alleges that court has in a similar case, involving the same points, decided adversely to the petitioner. Upon examining the petition and the accompanying exbibits, an order was made that the writ should issue and be returnable forthwith. By an arrangement between the parties and the counsel, it was agreed that the prisoner need not, in person, be brought to Washington. The case was therefore heard on the documents and transcripts of record presented to the court, and the only question argued before us was whether the act of April 19, 1889, which by the constitution of the state of Colorado became operative on the 19th day of July thereafter and under which the sentence complained of was imposed

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by the district court, is an ex post facto law, so as to be void under the provision of the constitution of the United States on that subject, and, if so, in what respect it is in violation of that constitutional provision.

This statute will be found in the Session Laws of the state of Colorado of 1889, p. 118, and is as follows: 'An act relative to the time, place, and manner of infliction of the death penalty, and to provide means for the infliction of such penalty; and making it a misdemeanor, punishable by fine or imprisonment, to disclose or publish proceedings in relation thereto. Be it enacted [10 S.Ct. 385] by the general assembly of the state of Colorado: Section 1. The commissioners of the state penitentiary, at the expense of the state of Colorado, shall provide a suitable room or place inclosed from public view within the walls of the penitentiary, and therein erect and construct, and at all times have in preparation, all necessary scaffolding, drops, and appliances requisite for carrying into execution the death penalty; and the punishment of death must, in each and every case of death sentence pronounced in this state, be inflicted by the warden of the said state penitentiary in the room or place and with the appliances provided as aforesaid, by hanging such convict by the neck until he shall be dead. Sec. 2. Whenever a person convicted of a crime, the punishment whereof is death, and such convicted person be sentenced to suffer the penalty of death, the judge passing such sentence shall appoint and designate in the warrant of conviction a week of time within which such sentence must be executed. Such week, so appointed, shall be not less than two nor more than four weeks from the day of passing such sentence. Said warrant shall be directed to the warden of the state penitentiary of this state, commanding said warden to do execution of the sentence imposed as aforesaid, upon some day within the week of time designated in said warrant, and shall be delivered to the sheriff of the county wherein such conviction is had, who shall within twenty-four hours thereafter

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after proceed to the said penitentiary and deliver such convicted person, together with the warrant as aforesaid, to the said warden, who shall keep such convict in solitary confinement until infliction of the death penalty; and no person shall be allowed access to said convict, except his attendants, counsel, physician, a spiritual adviser of his own selection, and members of his family, and then only in accordance with prison regulations. Sec. 3. The particular day and hour of the execution of said sentence, within the week specified in said warrant, shall be fixed by said warden, and he shall invite to be present thereat the sheriff of the county wherein the conviction was had, the chaplain and physician of the penitentiary, one practicing surgeon resident in the state, the spiritual adviser of the convict, if any, and six reputable citizens of the state of full age. Said warden may also appoint three deputies or guards to assist him in executing said sentence, and said warden shall permit no person or persons to be present at such execution except those provided for in this section. The time fixed by said warden for said execution shall be by him kept secret, and in no manner divulged, except privately, to the persons by him invited to be present as aforesaid; and such persons so invited shall not divulge such invitation to any person or persons whomsoever, nor in any manner disclose the time of such execution. All persons present at such execution shall keep whatever may transpire thereat secret and inviolate, save and except the facts certified to by them as hereinafter provided. No account of the details of any such execution, beyond the statement of the fact that such convict was on the day in question duly executed according to law at the state penitentiary, shall in any manner be published in this state. Sec. 4. Upon receiving notice from...

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