174 U.S. 47 (1899), 164, Kirby v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 164
Citation:174 U.S. 47, 19 S.Ct. 574, 43 L.Ed. 890
Party Name:Kirby v. United States
Case Date:April 11, 1899
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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174 U.S. 47 (1899)

19 S.Ct. 574, 43 L.Ed. 890

Kirby

v.

United States

No. 164

United States Supreme Court

April 11, 1899

Argued January 20, 1899

ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED

STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA

Syllabus

On the trial of a person charged with feloniously receiving and having in his possession with intent to convert them to his own use postage stamps which had been feloniously stolen, taken, and carried away from a post office by three persons named, although the person so receiving them well knew that the same had been so feloniously taken, stolen and carried away, the judgment convicting the said three persons of stealing the said stamps was received in evidence against the accused under the provision in the Act of March 3, 1875, c. 144, § 2, that such judgment "shall be conclusive evidence against said receiver, that the property of the United States therein described has been embezzled, stolen or purloined." The accused having been convicted, and the case brought here by writ of error, held that that provision of the statute violates the clause of the Constitution of the United States declaring that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be confronted with the witnesses against him, and that the judgment must be reversed.

The contention by the defendant that the indictment is defective in that it does not allege ownership by the United States of the stolen articles of property at the time that they were alleged to have been feloniously received by him is without merit.

The objection that the indictment does not show from whom the accused received the stamps, nor state that the name of such person was unknown to the grand jurors, is not well taken.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.

The plaintiff in error, Kirby, was indicted in the District Court of the United States for the Southern division of the district of South Dakota under the Act of congress of March 3,

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1875, c. 144, entitled "An act to punish certain larcenies, and the receivers of stolen goods." 18 Stat. 479.

The first section provides that

any person who shall embezzle, steal or purloin any money, property, record, voucher or valuable thing whatever of the moneys, goods, chattels, records or property of the United States shall be deemed guilty of felony, and on conviction thereof before the district or circuit court of the United States in the district wherein said offense may have been committed, or into which he shall carry or have in possession of said property so embezzled, stolen or purloined, shall be punished therefor by imprisonment at hard labor in the penitentiary not exceeding five years, or by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or both at the discretion of the court before which he shall be convicted.

By the second section it is provided that

if any person shall receive, conceal, or aid in concealing or have, or retain in his possession with intent to convert to his own use or gain, any money, property, record, voucher or valuable thing whatever, of the moneys, goods, chattels, records or property of the United States, which has theretofore been embezzled, stolen or purloined, such person shall, on conviction before the circuit or district court of the United States in the district wherein he may have such property, be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or imprisonment at hard labor in the penitentiary not exceeding five years, one or both at the discretion of the court before which he shall be convicted, and such receiver may be tried either before or after the conviction of the principal felon, but if the party has been convicted, then the judgment against him shall be conclusive evidence in the prosecution against such receiver that the property of the United States therein described has been embezzled, stolen or purloined.

18 Stat. 479.

The indictment contained three courts, but the defendant was tried only on the first. In that count it was stated that Thomas J. Wallace, Ed. Baxter, and Frank King, on the 7th day of June, 1896 at Highmore, within the jurisdiction of the court, feloniously and forcibly broke into a post office of the United States, and feloniously stole, took, and carried away

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therefrom certain moneys and property of the United States, to-wit, 3,750 postage stamps of the denomination of two [19 S.Ct. 575] cents, and of the value of two cents each, 1,266 postage stamps of the denomination of one cent. and of the value of one cent each, 140 postage stamps of the denomination of four cents, and of the value of four cents each, 250 postage stamps of the denomination of five cents, and of the value of five cents each, 80 postage stamps of the denomination of eight cents, and of the value of eight cents each, and also United States treasury notes, national bank notes, silver certificates, gold certificates, silver, nickel, and copper coins of the United States, as well as current money of the United States, a more particular description of which the grand jury were unable to ascertain, of the value of $58.19, and that the persons above named were severally indicted and convicted of that offense, and had been duly sentenced upon such conviction.

It was then alleged that the defendant, on the 9th day of June, 1896 at the City of Sioux Falls, the postage stamps

so as aforesaid feloniously stolen, taken, and carried away, feloniously did receive and have in his possession, with intent then and there to convert the same to his own use and gain, the said Joe Kirby then and there well knowing the said postage stamps to have been theretofore feloniously stolen, taken, and carried away, contrary to the form, force, and effect of the statutes of the United States in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the United States.

At the trial of Kirby, the government offered in evidence a part of the record of the trial of Wallace, Baxter, and King, from which it appeared that Wallace and Baxter, after severally pleading not guilty, withdrew their respective pleas, and each pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary at hard labor for the term of four years. It appeared from the same record that King, having pleaded not guilty, was found guilty, and sentenced to the penitentiary at hard labor for the term of five years.

The admission in evidence of the record of the conviction of Wallace, Baxter, and King was objected to, upon the ground that the above Act of March 3, 1875, was unconstitutional so

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far as it made that conviction conclusive evidence in the prosecution of the receiver that the property of the United States described in the indictment against him had been embezzled, stolen, or purloined. The objection was overruled, and the record offered was admitted in evidence, with exceptions to the accused.

After referring to the provisions of the Act of March 3, 1875, and to the indictment against Kirby, the court, among other things, said in its charge to the jury:

In order to make out the case of the prosecution, and in order that you should be authorized to return a verdict of guilty in this case, you must find beyond a reasonable doubt from the evidence in the case certain propositions to be true. In the first place, it must be found by you beyond a reasonable doubt that the property described in the indictment, and which is also described in the indictment against these three men [Wallace, Baxter, and King], who, it is alleged, have been convicted, was actually stolen from the post office at Highmore, was the property of the United States, and of a certain value. Second. You must find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant Joseph Kirby received, or had in his possession, a portion of that property which had been stolen from the post office at Highmore. Third. That he received or had it in his possession, with intent to convert it to his own use and gain. Now upon the first proposition -- as to whether the property described in the indictment was stolen, as alleged in the indictment -- the prosecution has introduced in evidence the record of the trial and conviction of what are known as the principal felons -- that is, the parties who, it is alleged, committed the larceny. Now in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the record is sufficient proof in this case upon which you would be authorized to find that the property alleged in that indictment was stolen as alleged -- in other words, it makes a prima facie case on the part of the government, which must stand as sufficient proof of the fact until some evidence is introduced showing the contrary, and, there being no such evidence in this case, you will, no doubt, have no trouble in coming to a conclusion that the property

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described in the indictment was actually...

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