226 F.2d 826 (5th Cir. 1955), 15426, Zebouni v. United States

Docket Nº:15426.
Citation:226 F.2d 826
Party Name:Nain Antoun ZEBOUNI, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
Case Date:November 09, 1955
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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226 F.2d 826 (5th Cir. 1955)

Nain Antoun ZEBOUNI, Appellant,


UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

No. 15426.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

Nov. 9, 1955

Fred S. Rizk, M. H. Myerson, Jacksonville, Fla., for appellant.

E. Coleman Madsen, Asst. U.S. Atty., Jacksonville, Fla., James L. Guilmartin, U.S. Atty., Miami, Fla., Edith House, Asst. U.S. Atty., Jacksonville, for appellee.

Before RIVES, TUTTLE and JONES, Circuit Judges.

RIVES, Circuit Judge.

Appellant was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for a year and a day upon a one count indictment, charging him with having knowingly made a false statement under oath in a proceeding relating to naturalization in violation of Title 18 United States Code, § 1015(a). 1

All of the allegations of the indictment were either conclusively established by the evidence or were admitted by the defendant, excepting only his knowledge of the falsity of the statement and his criminal intent. In his 'Application for a Certificate of Arrival and Preliminary

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Form for Petition for Naturalization', the defendant was duly sworn and made the following answer under oath:

'(24) Have you, either in the United States or in any other country, been arrested, charged with violation of any law or ordinance, summoned into court as a defendant, convicted, fined, imprisoned, or placed on probation or parole, or forfeited collateral for any act involving a felony, misdemeanor, or breach of any public law or ordinance? If so, give date, place, offense, and disposition. .... no ..........'

That negative answer was false, for on February 1, 1951, defendant had been arrested, charged with 'possession of lottery paraphernalia bond books', and on the next day, had been found guilty of the charge by a judgment of the Municipal Court of the City of Jacksonville, and fined $10.00; and, again on February 14, 1951, the defendant had been arrested, charged with 'possession of lottery paraphernalia', but found not guilty by a different judge of the same Court. 2

In his testimony, the defendant explained the negative answer to the question as follows:

'A. The question was asked, but I explained at the time that the question as put altogether, was awkward to me-- The only thing came to my mind was, have you been in jail, and I have never, and I learned in the Syrian or Arabic language, it says, have you been incarcerated, because I never speak in English. Sometimes I have to translate into Arabic for this, have you ever been in jail, and that's what came to my mind. If I ever been in jail, I never was in jail; for that reason I answer that question 'no'. * * *

'A. I understood by the question that I had been put in jail or not, and I know that I never been put in jail and for that reason I said no.'

Thus the sole issue was whether the defendant had the requisite criminal intent and knowledge of the falsity of his answer.

Appellant strenuously urges that, by excessive participation in the trial, by continuous intervention on behalf of the prosecution, by cross-examination of defendant with a hostile attitude, and by remarks evidencing disbelief of the defensive testimony, the district judge inadvertently abused his discretionary right to participate in the trial and created such prejudice with the jury against the defendant as to require reversal. 3

On one occasion when defendant's counsel objected that the Naturalization Examiner was not shown to have authority to administer oaths, the district judge retorted, '* * * I think it's foolish to go into something like that', and again, '* * * I think it is foolish to waste any time finding out if he was a Naturalization Examiner or not.' True, shortly thereafter, the court instructed the jury: 'I instruct you to disregard this colloquy between me and Mr. Myerson about what I thought about the point of law he is raising.' In the minds of the jury, however, it is probably true that the remarks of the judge had already discredited counsel for the defendant with consequent prejudice to the defense. If counsel had had the temerity to characterize any action of the judge as foolish, he would, no doubt, have met instant punishment for contempt. In the administration of justice, the function of counsel is almost, if not quite, as essential and important as is that of the judge, and counsel, in the proper performance of his duty, is entitled to the courtesy and respect of the court.

On another occasion, defendant's counsel sought to introduce part of an interview

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with another Naturalization Examiner to show that before the present charge was brought against defendant,...

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