232 U.S. 563 (1913), Wilson v. United States

Citation:232 U.S. 563, 34 S.Ct. 347, 58 L.Ed. 728
Party Name:Wilson v. United States
Case Date:February 24, 1914
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 563

232 U.S. 563 (1913)

34 S.Ct. 347, 58 L.Ed. 728



United States

United States Supreme Court

February 24, 1914




The White-Slave Act of June 25, 1910, has been sustained as constitutional. Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308.

Although the constitutional question on which a case has been brought to this Court on direct writ of error has been decided since the writ of error was sued out, this Court must retain jurisdiction for the purpose of passing upon the other questions in the record.

Under the White-Slave Act, the prohibition is not in terms confined to transportation by common carrier, nor need such a limitation be implied in order to sustain the constitutionality of the act.

The White-Slave Act has the quality of a police regulation although enacted in the exercise of the power to regulate interstate commerce, and it is wholly within the power of Congress to determine whether the prohibition should extend to transportation by others than common carriers.

The agency of one employed to bring prostitutes from one state to another without definite instructions includes power to decide upon the mode and route of transportation.

The cross-examination of a defendant in regard to taking morphine held in this case to be proper as it related not to general character, but to the condition of the witness at the moment.

Cross-examination as to the domestic difficulties of one of two defendants married to each other held in this case to have been material in order to corroborate the evidence of an accomplice and in other respects relevant to the testimony in chief.

Cross-examination of a defendant in a white slave case in regard to payments made to police officers held in this case to have been competent

Page 564

and material to show the character of the house occupied by defendant.

In this case, held that the charge of the trial court in regard to presumptions of innocence of the accused and their right to acquittal in case of reasonable doubt was sufficiently favorable to the accused.

The offense under the White-Slave Act is complete when the transportation in interstate commerce has been accomplished. There is no locus poenitentiae thereafter.

The facts, which involve the validity of convictions and sentences under the White-Slave Act, are stated in the opinion.

Page 565

PITNEY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case comes here upon two separate writs of error allowed upon the same record, to review judgments of the district court imposing fine and imprisonment upon each of the plaintiffs in error, upon their conviction on an indictment founded upon the Act of Congress of June 25, 1910, commonly known as the White Slave Act (36 Stat. 825, c. 395).

The case was brought directly to this Court because the constitutionality of the statute was drawn in question. This question has since been settled adversely to plaintiffs in error. Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308. Nevertheless, we must retain jurisdiction for the purpose of passing upon the other questions in the record. Horner

Page 566

v. United States, 143 U.S. 570, 576; Burton v. United States, 196 U.S. 283, 295; Williamson v. United States, 207 U.S. 425, 432.

There were numerous counts in the indictment and a general verdict of guilty. The substance of the charge was that defendants caused and procured two girls to be transported in interstate commerce from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Chicago, Illinois, for the purpose of prostitution. There was also a count charging a conspiracy to commit the same offense. The theory of the government, sufficiently stated in the indictment and supported by evidence at the trial, was that, in pursuance of an understanding between defendants and a man named Corder, they gave him $11 in money, with instructions to proceed from Chicago to Milwaukee, induce one or both of the girls to return with him to Chicago, paying their transportation and other expenses out of the $11, and bring them to a house of prostitution in the latter city, kept by the defendants, and that Corder carried out these instructions to the letter, bringing both girls over an interstate electric railway line and escorting them to the defendants' house for the purpose of prostitution.

Of the questions of law that are raised, only the following seem to require mention:

1. It is insisted that the offense was not fully proved because there was nothing to show that defendants either directed or knew how the girls were to come from Milwaukee to Chicago, whether, in a private vehicle or through the instrumentality of a common carrier. But, in our opinion, in order to constitute an offense under the act, it is not essential that the transportation be by common carrier. The statute reads:

That any person who shall knowingly transport or cause to be transported, or aid or assist in obtaining transportation for, or in transporting, in interstate or foreign commerce, . . . any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or

Page 567

for any other immoral purpose, . . . or who shall knowingly procure or obtain, or cause to be procured or obtained, or aid or assist in procuring or obtaining, any ticket or tickets,...

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