289 U.S. 412 (1933), 685, South Carolina v. Bailey

Docket Nº:No. 685
Citation:289 U.S. 412, 53 S.Ct. 667, 77 L.Ed. 1292
Party Name:South Carolina v. Bailey
Case Date:May 22, 1933
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 412

289 U.S. 412 (1933)

53 S.Ct. 667, 77 L.Ed. 1292

South Carolina



No. 685

United States Supreme Court

May 22, 1933

Argued April 21, 1933



1. The question whether a person arrested for interstate rendition should be delivered to the demanding state or should be released upon the ground that, by clear evidence he has shown his absence from that state when the crime was committed and consequently that he is not a fugitive from justice, is a question of federal right which, when raised in a court of the arresting state, should be decided under Art. IV, § 2, par. 2 of the Constitution and § 5278 R.S., 18 U.S.C. 662, as construed by this Court. P. 419.

2. A person who has been arrested in one state under Constitution, Art. IV, § 2, par. 2, R.S., § 5278, 18 U.S.C. 662, as a fugitive from justice and who seeks discharge by habeas corpus upon the ground that he was not in the demanding state at the time of the alleged crime, has the burden of proving the alibi beyond a reasonable doubt; if the evidence is conflicting, he should not be released. P. 420.

3. The habeas corpus proceeding is in no sense a criminal trial, and if the evidence of alibi is suspicious, the judge may well require the prisoner to submit to examination also and to show what effort has been made to secure the presence of important witnesses. P. 418.

203 N.C. 362, 166 S.E. 165, reversed.

Certiorari to review the affirmance of a judgment of discharge in habeas corpus.

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MCREYNOLDS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Sunday night, May 1, 1932 (probably about 10:30 Eastern time), Hunt, a police officer, was murdered on a well lighted street in Greenville, South Carolina. An affidavit by policeman Corea, May 5th, before a local magistrate charged Ray Bailey, respondent here, with the crime. As provided by the federal statute, demand was made upon the Governor of North Carolina for delivery of the accused as a fugitive from justice. Bramlett and Hammond were designated as agents to bring him back.

This requisition was promptly honored, and a warrant issued directing officers in North Carolina to arrest respondent,

afford him such opportunity to sue out a writ of habeas corpus as is prescribed by the laws of this state and to thereafter deliver him into the custody of the said C. R. Bramlett and L. W. Hammond, to be taken back to the said state, from which he fled.

June 7th, acting as commanded, the sheriff of Jackson County took him into custody. He at once obtained a writ of habeas corpus from the local superior court. His petition therefor alleged illegality of custody

for that the defendant is charged with an offense in the State of South Carolina, to-wit, the murder of A. B. Hunt, on or about the 1st day of May, 1932, when at which time, this affiant was in the State of North Carolina, and was not in the State of South Carolina.

The sheriff, in his return to the writ, alleged that Bailey

is being legally and lawfully held in custody after having been arrested on a warrant of extradition issued by the Governor of North Carolina on the 9th day of May, 1932, upon requisition for same by the Governor of South Carolina, on and for a charge of murder alleged to have been committed in the South Carolina, said warrant

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of extradition having been duly executed by me on the said Ray Bailey, alias Ray Keith, on the 7th day of June, 1932.

The judge of the Superior Court sitting at Sylva, N.C., heard the cause June 27, 1932. A number of affidavits were received without objection, and thirty or more witnesses were examined in open court. At the conclusion of the testimony, the judge announced:

Gentlemen, I think there has been an issue raised here I don't think I have a right to pass on -- that of identity -- and at the same time, I don't think it would be fair to the defendant to send him to South Carolina to stand a trial, as it would be very expensive to him and his folks; under the testimony, I don't think [53 S.Ct. 669] there would be a jury anywhere that would ever find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I shall therefore discharge him under the writ and let him go.

This formal judgment followed:

1. That Ray Bailey (alias Ray Keith) is a citizen and resident of the State of North Carolina.

2. That he is not a fugitive from justice from the State of South Carolina, and was not present at the time of the commission of the alleged crime at Greenville, South Carolina.

3. That the State of South Carolina has failed to show probable cause for holding the said Ray Bailey in custody, or that he committed the alleged crime, the murder of A. B. Hunt, and has failed to produce sufficient evidence to warrant the Court in refusing the Writ, and the Court finding from all the evidence introduced in this cause that the petitioner is entitled to the relief sought in his petition and the Writ of Habeas Corpus; . . .

It is therefore upon motion . . . considered, ordered, decreed and adjudged by the Court that the petition and Writ be allowed and that the defendant be and he is hereby released from custody.

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The Supreme Court of North Carolina reviewed the cause upon certiorari under title "In the matter of Ray Bailey alias Ray Keith." It affirmed the challenged judgment and, among other things, said (203 N.C. 362, 166 S.E. 165, 167):

In the case at bar, a controversy of fact arose between the contending parties -- that is, the demanding state and the prisoner -- as to whether the prisoner was in the demanding state at the time the alleged offense was committed. The writ of habeas corpus was created and fashioned for the express purpose of determining such controverted fact. The statute and public policy require that such fact be determined in a summary manner. Doubtless, in given cases, different minds would work out diverse conclusions, but, after all, it is perhaps wise that the determination of the ultimate fact should be lodged in the sound legal discretion of an impartial judge, commissioned by the law of the land and the inherent sense of the responsibility of his high office "to do what to justice appertains." He hears the witnesses and observes their mental leanings or bias toward the question involved. He senses the atmosphere of the case. Moreover, it would doubtless be a dangerous experiment to undertake by a judicial decree of an appellate court to prescribe a legal strait-jacket for such matters.

Exercising the power delegated by statute and supported in principle by the decisions of this state, the hearing judge found certain facts and set them forth in his judgment. The last inquiry in the solution of the appeal is: what is the effect of the findings of fact set out in the judgment? Whatever may be the variable conclusions reached by other courts, that inquiry is settled in North Carolina. The law is thus stated:

The findings of fact made by the judge of the Superior Court, found, as they are, upon competent evidence, are also conclusive on us . . .

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and we must therefore base our judgment upon his findings, which amply sustain his order.

In re Hamilton, 182 N.C. 44, 108 S.E. 385, 386. See also Clegg v. Clegg, 186 N.C. 28, 118 S.E. 824; In re Hayes, 200 N.C. 133, 156 S.E. 791.

The matter is here on certiorari.

No question is raised concerning the...

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