26 A. 282 (Md. 1893), Izer v. State

Citation:26 A. 282, 77 Md. 110
Opinion Judge:McSHERRY, J.
Party Name:IZER v. STATE.
Attorney:R. T. Semmes, for appellant. Atty. Gen. Poe and D. W. Sloan, for the State.
Judge Panel:Argued before ALVEY, C.J., and ROBINSON, BRYAN, PAGE, FOWLER, BRISCOE, and McSHERRY, JJ.
Case Date:March 14, 1893
Court:Court of Appeals of Maryland
 
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Page 282

26 A. 282 (Md. 1893)

77 Md. 110

IZER

v.

STATE.

Court of Appeals of Maryland

March 14, 1893

Appeal from circuit court, Allegany county.

Charles Izer was convicted of perjury, and appeals. Affirmed.

Argued before ALVEY, C.J., and ROBINSON, BRYAN, PAGE, FOWLER, BRISCOE, and McSHERRY, JJ.

R. T. Semmes, for appellant.

Atty. Gen. Poe and D. W. Sloan, for the State.

McSHERRY, J.

The appellant was indicted by the grand jury of Allegany county for perjury. He demurred to the indictment, and, upon the demurrer being overruled, he pleaded not guilty, and was put upon his trial, during the progress of which he reserved five exceptions to rulings of the court on the admissibility of evidence. Having been convicted by the verdict of a jury, and subsequently sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary, he entered an appeal which has brought the case here, under Act 1892, c. 506.

The indictment alleges, in substance, that Izer had been regularly summoned and duly sworn to testify before the grand jury of Allegany county; and that, when interrogated by them, he corruptly, knowingly, willfully, and maliciously swore falsely in reference to a subject-matter fully set forth in the indictment, and then being investigated by the grand jury, and that he then and there committed the crime of perjury. The single question raised by the demurrer, and also sought to be presented by two of the exceptions, is this: Can a person who has corruptly, knowingly, willfully, and maliciously sworn falsely in giving testimony before a grand jury be indicted for and tried for perjury? The appellant insists that he cannot, and his counsel bases that contention on the ground of public policy. The argument, briefly stated, is: To convict a witness of perjury for testifying falsely before the grand jury, the jurors must disclose what transpired in the jury room; but it is against public policy to allow a grand juror to disclose what transpired in the grand jury room. Therefore, no matter how clear the perjury may be, no member of the grand jury is competent to give evidence of it, and consequently, as no one else can be cognizant of it, no presentment can be found, and no prosecution can be maintained at all. But this is obviously fallacious. The authority which, to promote the public welfare, has imposed upon grand jurors the obligation of secrecy, may, when the same public welfare requires it, dispense with its observance. The law, for wise reasons, has imposed upon grand jurors the obligation of secrecy, and, for equally wise reasons, it has in certain cases, but only upon its own express command, and within clearly-defined limits, dispensed with the literal observance of the obligation. The oath of the grand juror undoubtedly precludes him for all time from voluntarily, and of his own motion, or at his own instance, divulging the counsels of the state, his fellows, or his own; but there is in the very nature of things a tacit condition implied that, in the furtherance of justice, the juror shall, in some instances, speak when the law, through its constituted tribunals, explicitly commands him to do so. As a consequence, notwithstanding his oath of secrecy, he may, with a view of contradicting a witness, be required to disclose in open court what the witness testified to before the grand jury, and it is neither a violation of his oath

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nor against public policy for him, when thus called on, to repeat the witness' testimony. So, also, he may testify as to whether a particular person gave any evidence or was examined at all before the grand jury. Com. v. Hill, 11 Cush. 137. To give no further illustrations, it is...

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