145 U.S. 571 (1892), 1525, Cross v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 1525
Citation:145 U.S. 571, 12 S.Ct. 842, 36 L.Ed. 821
Party Name:Cross v. United States
Case Date:May 16, 1892
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 571

145 U.S. 571 (1892)

12 S.Ct. 842, 36 L.Ed. 821



United States

No. 1525

United States Supreme Court

May 16, 1892

Submitted April 25, 1892




Under the Act of February 6, 1883, "to provide for writs of error in capital cases," 25 Stat. 655, c. 113, a writ of error does not lie from this Court to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia to review a judgment of that court in general term affirming a judgment of the trial court convicting a person of a capital crime.

Motion to dismiss. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

FULLER, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

William D. Cross was tried upon an indictment for murder in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, holding a criminal term, in March, 1890, and a verdict of guilty having been returned, and a motion for a new trial heard and overruled, was sentenced to death. He thereupon prosecuted an appeal to the court in general term, which reversed the conviction and granted a new trial. 19 D.C. 562.

A second trial was had at the June, 1891, special criminal term, which again resulted in a verdict of guilty, and, a motion for a new trial having been made and overruled, he was, July 30, 1891, sentenced to be executed January 22, 1892. From this conviction he prosecuted an appeal to the court in general term, which, on January 12, 1892, finding no error in the record, affirmed the judgment. The opinion, by Cox, J., will be found in 20 Washington Law Rep. 98.

On January 21st a writ of error from this Court was allowed,

Page 572

on petition, by the chief justice of that court, citation was signed and served and the time for filing the record enlarged.

On the same day, an order was entered by the court in general term

that the execution of the sentence of death pronounced against the defendant by the special term of this court on the 30th day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety-one, to take place on the 22d day of January, 1892, be, and the same is hereby, postponed until the 10th day of June, 1892, between the same hours specified in the said judgment of the said special term.

The case comes before us on motion to dismiss the writ of error.

Under acts of Congress, the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia consists of one chief justice and six associate justices, appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and holding their offices during good behavior. Special and general terms of the court, and appeals from the former to the latter, are provided for. General terms may be held by three justices, two constituting a quorum, while special terms are held by one justice. Any one of the justices may hold a criminal court for the trial of all crimes and offenses arising in the District. Rev.Stat.D.C. §§ 750, 753, 754, 757, 762, 763, 772; 19 Stat. 240, c. 69, § 2; 20 Stat. 320, c. 99, § 1.

By the Act of July 7, 1838, 5 Stat. 306, c. 192, a criminal court was established in the District of Columbia, and it was held in Ex Parte Bradley, 7 Wall. 364 at our December term, 1868, that under the Act of March 3, 1863, 12 Stat. 762, by which the courts of the District were reorganized, the criminal court still remained a separate and independent court, although held by a justice of the Supreme Court of the District created by the act, and that the only jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in criminal cases was in an appellate form. But by the Act of June 21, 1870, 16 Stat. 160, c. 141, it was provided, as now embodied in section 753 of the Revised Statutes of the District, that the several general terms

Page 573

and special terms of the various courts, circuit, district, and criminal, should be considered terms of the Supreme Court of the District, and that the judgments, decrees, sentences, etc., of the general terms and of the special terms and of the various courts should be the judgments, decrees, sentences, etc., of the Supreme Court, but that this should not affect the right of appeal as provided by law.

Section 772 reads:

Any party aggrieved by any order, judgment, or decree, made or pronounced at any special term, may, if the same involve the merits of the action or proceeding, appeal therefrom to the general term of the Supreme Court, and upon such appeal the general term shall review such order, judgment, or decree, and affirm, reverse, or modify the same, as shall be just.

And under section 770:

The Supreme Court in general term shall adopt such rules as it may think proper to regulate the time and manner of making appeals from the special term to the general term,


The Act of February 25, 1879, 20 Stat. 320, c. 99, forbade any justice to sit in general term to hear an appeal from any judgment or decree or order which he may have rendered at special term.

By the act of 1838, a writ of error lay to the criminal court from the circuit court of the district, and postponement of execution in capital cases was provided for, and this was carried into § 845 of the District Revised Statutes.

The Supreme Court sitting at special term and the Supreme Court sitting in general term are the same tribunal, but the court in general term exercises appellate powers, and is an appellate court, although it may also exercise jurisdiction in hearing matters in the first instance, (Rev.Stat. D.C. §§ 770, 800), and the final judgments or decrees which may be brought here by appeal or writ of error are those rendered by the general term. Such review may be had when the matter in dispute exceeds $5,000 (Rev.Stat. § 705; 20 Stat. 320, c. 99, § 4; 23 Stat. 443, c. 355, § 1; Rev.Stat.D.C. §§ 846, 847), but necessarily this does not apply to criminal cases.

Page 574

The language of sections 846, 847 of the Revised Statutes of the District of Columbia in reference to the reexamination of the final orders, judgments, or decrees of the Supreme Court of the District, is taken...

To continue reading