270 U.S. 424 (1926), 521, Ashe v. Valotta

Docket Nº:No. 521
Citation:270 U.S. 424, 46 S.Ct. 333, 70 L.Ed. 662
Party Name:Ashe v. Valotta
Case Date:March 15, 1926
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 424

270 U.S. 424 (1926)

46 S.Ct. 333, 70 L.Ed. 662

Ashe

v.

Valotta

No. 521

United States Supreme Court

March 15, 1926

Argued March 5, 1926

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Syllabus

Relator, having been indicted in the state court separately for each of two closely connected murders, was given a single trial on both indictments, in which he was deprived of the full number of challenges he would have had if tried separately on each. Conviction on both indictment was sustained by the state supreme court. He was discharged by habeas corpus in the federal district court.

Held:

1. The state trial court had jurisdiction even if the joinder was contrary to state law. P. 425.

2. The decision of the state supreme court on state law, with respect to the trial and the challenges, was not rexaminable. Id.

3. The joint trial of the two charges, and limitations of the challenges, was within the constitutional power of the state. Id.

4. The interference by habeas corpus was unwarranted. P. 426.

2 F.2d 735 reversed.

Appeal from an order of the district court, in habeas corpus, discharging the relator Valotta from the custody of the appellant, by whom he was held for execution of a death sentence pursuant to a judgment of a state court.

HOLMES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal from an order on a writ of habeas corpus discharging the relator, Valotta, from the custody

Page 425

of the appellant, by whom he was held under a sentence of death. Valotta shot a man in a street brawl -- we will assume, in circumstances that suggest considerable excuse -- and then killed a policeman who pursued him, within a short distance from the first act. He was indicted separately for the murder of each man, tried in a court of Pennsylvania, found guilty of murder in the second degree for the first killing and guilty of murder in the first degree for the second, and was sentenced to death. The judgment was affirmed by the supreme court of the state.

No writ of error or certiorari was applied for, Valotta having no funds and his counsel being ignorant of the statute authorizing proceedings in such cases without prepayment of fees or costs. But when the time for such proceedings had gone by, a writ of...

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