138 U.S. 157 (1891), Cook v. United States

Citation:138 U.S. 157, 11 S.Ct. 268, 34 L.Ed. 906
Party Name:COOK et al. v. UNITED STATES.
Case Date:January 26, 1891
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 157

138 U.S. 157 (1891)

11 S.Ct. 268, 34 L.Ed. 906

COOK et al.

v.

UNITED STATES.

United States Supreme Court.

January 26, 1891

In error to the circuit court of the United States for the eastern district of Texas.

Page 165

[11 S.Ct. 268] The plaintiffs in error, with others, were indicted in the court below at its October term, 1889, and were convicted and sentenced to suffer death for the crime of murder alleged to have been committed on the 25th day of July, 1888, in that part of the United States designated in numerous public documents as the 'Public Land Strip,' but commonly called 'No Man's [11 S.Ct. 269] Land.' It is 167 miles in length, 34 1/2 miles in width, lies between the 100th meridian of longitude and the territory of New Mexico, and is bounded on the south by that part of Texas known as the 'Panhandle,' and by Kansas and Colorado on the north.

The prosecution was based upon section 5339 of the Revised Statutes, providing that 'every person who commits murder * * *

Page 166

within any fort, arsenal, dock-yard, magazine, or in any other place or district of country under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, * * * shall suffer death;' and upon the act of congress of March 1, 1889, establishing a court of the United States for the Indian Territory and for other purposes, and attaching a part of that territory, for limited judicial purposes, to the eastern district of Texas. 25 St. p. 783, c. 333.

The principal assignment of error is based upon these general propositions: That at the date of the alleged homicide the Public Land Strip was not within the jurisdiction of any particular state or federal district, and that no court of the United States had jurisdiction to try the alleged offense, or, if any court had jurisdiction, it was not the court below, but the circuit court of the United States for the northern district of Texas, or that of the district of Kansas, in which the defendants were found and arrested; and that, if the above act of March 1, 1889,--under which alone this prosecution was conducted,--placed the Public Land Strip within the limits of the eastern district of Texas, it did not, and consistently with the constitution of the United States could not, give the circuit court for that district jurisdiction of offenses committed prior to its enactment.

Did congress intend to attach the Public Land Strip to the eastern district of Texas for any purpose? That necessarily is the question to be first considered. And it must be determined without reference to the act of May 2, 1890, providing a temporary government for Oklahoma; for that act, while including this strip within the territory of Oklahoma, declares that all 'crimes committed in said territory' prior to its passage 'shall be tried and prosecuted, and proceeded with until finally disposed of, in the courts now [then] having jurisdiction thereof,' as if that act had not been passed. 26 St. pp. 81, 86, c. 182, §§ 1, 9. We will be aided in the solution of the question of jurisdiction by recalling the history of the Public Land Strip, and various acts of congress, preceding that of 1889, which are supposed to have some bearing upon this case.

The Public Land Strip was once a part of the possessions of Mexico. This appears from the treaty of January 12, 1828, between the United States of America and the United Mexican States, confirming the previous treaty of February 22, 1879, with the monarchy of Spain. 8 St. 372, 374. When Texas achieved its independence, this strip was within its limits. Indeed, the republic of Texas originally embraced the present territory of the state of Texas, as well as parts of what now constitutes New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Kansas. On the day of its admission into the Union, by the joint resolution of December 29, 1845, the judicial district of Texas was established, embracing the entire state. 9 St. 1, 108.

Congress, by an act of September 9, 1850, (9 St. p. 446, c. 49,) made certain propositions to Texas, one of which was that its boundary on the north should commence at the point where the meridian of 100 degrees west from Greenwich is intersected by the parallel of 36 deg. 30 min. north latitude, and run from that point due west to the meridian of 103 degrees; thence due south to the thirty-second degree of north latitude; therece on the latter parallel to the Rio Bravo del Norte; and thence with the channel of that river to the gulf of Mexico. This proposition was accepted by Texas. Oldham & W. Dig. Laws Tex. p. 55. By the some act (section 2) the eastern boundary of New Mexico was established on the 103d meridian. The remaining territory of Texas, as it was when admitted into the Union, passed by that act under the jurisdiction of the United States. The territory of Kansas was organized by the act of May 30, 1854, (10 St. pp. 277, 283, c. 59, § 19,) its southern line being fixed on the 37th parallel of north latitude. The territory of Colorado was organized by an act approved February 28, 1861, (12 St. c. 59, § 1,) its eastern boundary being on the 102d meridian, and its southern boundary being on the 37th parallel of north latitude. The result of all these enactments was that the body of public lands known as the 'Public Land Strip' was left outside of Texas, as well as of the territories of New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado.

By the act of February 21, 1857, the state of Texas was divided into two judicial districts,--the western and the eastern. 11 St. 164. The northern district was established by an act passed February 24, 1879, with courts at Waco, Callas county, and Graham, Young county, embracing 110 counties by name, including Sherman, Hansford, Ochiltree, and Lipscomb in the Panhandle, immediately south of the Public Land Strip, and Hemphill, Wheeler, Collingsworth, and Childress, immediately west of the 100th meridian, and Harde. man, Wilbarger, Wichita, Clay, Montague, Cooke, Grayson, Fannin, and Lamar, immediately south of the Indian Territory, in the central and eastern parts of Texas, but excluding the counties of Red River and Bowie, in the latter state, near the Arkansas line. The same act enlarges the eastern district of Texas, and designates all the counties that should thereafter compose the eastern and western districts, respectively. Under this act the eastern district embraced, among others, the counties next to Louisiana and Arkansas, including Red River and Bowie. 20 St. p. 318, c. 97.

An act of congress was passed January 6, 1883, c. 13, for the holding at Wichita of a term of the district court of the United States for the district of Kansas, and for other purposes. 22 St. 400. By that act, 'all that part of the Indian Territory lying north of the Canadian river and east [11 S.Ct. 270] of Texas and the 100th meridian, not set apart and occupied by the Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole Indian tribes,' was annexed to the district of Kansas; and the United States district courts and Wichita and Ft. Scott, in that district, were given 'exclusive original jurisdiction of all offenses committed within the limits of the territory hereby annexed to said district of Kansas against any of the laws of the United States now or that may hereafter be operative therein.' Section 2. It was further provided: '§ 3. That all that portion of the Indian Territory not annexed to the district of Kansas by this act, and not set apart and occupied by the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole Indian tribes, shall, from and after the passage of this act, be annexed to and constitute a part of the United States judicial district known as the 'Northern District of Texas;' and the United States district court at Graham, in said northern district of Texas, shall have exclusive original jurisdiction of all offenses committed within the limits of the territory hereby annexed to said northern district of Texas against any of the laws of the United States now or that may hereafter be operative therein. § 4. That nothing contained in this act shall be construed to affect in any manner any action or proceeding now pending in the circuit or district court for the western district of Arkansas, nor the execution of any process relating thereto; nor shall anything in this act be construed to give to said district courts of Kansas and Texas, respectively, any greater jurisdiction in that part of said Indian Territory so as aforesaid annexed, respectively, to said district of Kansas and said northern district of Texas than might heretofore have been lawfully exercised therein by the western district of Arkansas; nor shall anything in this act contained be construed to violate or impair, in any respect, any treaty provision whatever.' It is insisted, on behalf of the United States, that this act attached the Public Land Strip to the northern district of Texas; that the words 'Indian Territory' were used to include that strip; and that such a construction is sustained both by executive recognition and by the legislation of congress.

Then comes the act of March 1, 1889, c. 333, above referred to, (25 St. p. 783,) which, it is contended, transferred the Public Land Strip from the northern district to the eastern district of Texas. By its first section a United States court, to be held at Muscogee, is established, 'whose jurisdiction shall extend over the Indian Territory, bounded as follows, to-wit: North by the state of Kansas, east by the states of Missouri and Arkansas, south by the state of Texas, and west by the state of Texas and the territory of New Mexico.' It is given 'exclusive original jurisdiction over all offenses against the laws of the United States committed within the Indian Territory as in this act defined, not punishable by death or by imprisonment at hard labor.' Section 5. That court was also given...

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