250 U.S. 583 (1919), Stilson v. United States

Citation:250 U.S. 583, 40 S.Ct. 28, 63 L.Ed. 1154
Party Name:Stilson v. United States
Case Date:November 10, 1919
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 583

250 U.S. 583 (1919)

40 S.Ct. 28, 63 L.Ed. 1154



United States

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 10, 1919




The denial of a severance in a criminal case is within the discretion of the judge. P. 585.

The Constitution does not require Congress to grant peremptory challenges to defendants in criminal cases, and the longstanding provision of law (now in Jud.Code, § 287) that all of several defendants shall be treated as one for the purposes of such challenges does not infringe the right to an impartial jury guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Id.

In a prosecution for conspiracy to violate the Espionage and Selective Service Acts, where the jury were in substance instructed to consider certain publications uttered by the defendants and determine from them, considered with all the other evidence, whether they

Page 584

amounted to violations, held that related portion of the charge, on their right to call upon their general knowledge and information, were not objectionable. P. 587.

The district judge is not required to analyze and discuss the details of the evidence, particularly when not requested to comment upon any special phase of it. P. 588.

The evidence in this case was ample to justify the district court in submitting the question of the defendants' guilt to the jury. Id.

254 F. 120 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

DAY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiffs in error were indicted with two others, not apprehended, and were convicted under the conspiracy section (4) of the Espionage Act, 40 Stat. 217, 219. The section which the plaintiffs in error were charged with a criminal conspiracy to violate (3) provides:

. . . Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, . . . shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both. . . .

A second count in the indictment charged a conspiracy to violate certain provisions of the Selective Service Act. The sentences imposed within the act upon either count of the indictment were three years' imprisonment for Stilson and three months for Sukys. The government does not press the conviction upon the second count.

Page 585

The overt acts charged to have been committed in pursuance of the conspiracy consisted of the publication and distribution of a certain newspaper called "Kova" and circulars published in the Lithuanian language. The cases come directly to this Court because of constitutional questions raised and decided in the court below. Since the proceedings in that court, some of the constitutional questions have been determined, and need not be considered. Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47; Frohwerk v. United States, 249 U.S. 204; Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211.

Counsel for plaintiffs in error in view of these decisions only press for consideration certain assignments of error comprised in the following summary.

1. Whether or not, in ruling that there could be no severance of defendants and that a peremptory challenge by one defendant should count as a challenge by all defendants, the trial judge was in error under Article VI of the Amendments of the United States Constitution.

2. Whether or not the trial judge erred in his charge to the jury in that portion thereof in which he said the jury might determine the guilt of the defendants from general information.

3. Whether or not the trial judge erred in not refreshing the jury's memory as to the evidence.

4. Whether or not the trial judge erred in overruling a motion to take the case away from the jury, and in refusing to charge the jury, "under all the evidence your verdict should be `not guilty.'"

Of these, in their order:

1. It is provided in the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that, in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a trial by an impartial jury. That it was within the discretion of the court to order the defendants to be tried together there can be no question, and the practice is too well established

Page 586

to require further consideration. The contention raised under the Sixth Amendment comes to this: that, because plaintiffs in error were not each allowed ten separate and independent peremptory challenges, they were...

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