297 U.S. 124 (1936), 559, Gooch v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 559
Citation:297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522
Party Name:Gooch v. United States
Case Date:February 03, 1936
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 124

297 U.S. 124 (1936)

56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522

Gooch

v.

United States

No. 559

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 3, 1936

Argued January 13, 14, 1936

CERTIFICATE FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. An officer who is unlawfully seized and carried away to prevent the arrest of his captor is "held for . . . reward or otherwise" within the meaning of the Federal Kidnaping Act as amended, and transportation in interstate commerce of the officer while thus restrained constitutes a violation of the Act. Act of June 22, 1932, as amended by Act of May 18, 1934. P. 125.

2. The amending Act added to the words "held for ransom or reward" the words "or otherwise, except, in the case of a minor, by a parent thereof." The contention that the words "ransom" and "reward" mean only pecuniary benefits, and that ejusdem generis similarly restricts the words "or otherwise" notwithstanding the excepting clause, cannot be sustained. P. 126.

3. The rule of ejusdem generis is an aid in ascertaining the correct meaning of words when there is uncertainty. P. 128.

4. Penal statutes are construed in that sense which best harmonizes with their context and purpose. P. 128.

Certificate presenting two questions involving the construction of the Federal Kidnaping Act.

MCREYNOLDS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

By permission of § 346, 28 U.S.C., the Circuit Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit, has certified two questions and asked instruction.

1. Is holding an officer to avoid arrest within the meaning of the phrase, "held for ransom or reward or

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otherwise," in the Act of June 22, 1932, as amended May 18, 1934 (48 Stat. 781), 18 U.S.C. § 408a?

2. Is it an offense under § 408a, supra, to kidnap and transport a person in interstate commerce for the purpose of preventing the arrest of the kidnaper?

The statement revealing the facts and circumstances out of which the questions arise follows:

Gooch was convicted and sentenced to be hanged under an indictment charging that he, with one Nix, kidnaped two officers at Paris, Texas, "for the purpose of preventing his [Gooch's] arrest by the said peace officers in the State of Texas," and transported them in interstate commerce from Paris, Texas, to Pushmataha [56 S.Ct. 396] County, Oklahoma, and at the time of the kidnaping did bodily harm and injury to one of the officers from which bodily harm the officer was suffering at the time of his liberation by Gooch and Nix in Oklahoma.

The proof supports the charge. It established these facts: Gooch and Nix, while heavily armed, were accosted by the officers at Paris, Texas. To avoid arrest, Gooch and Nix resisted and disarmed the officers, unlawfully seized and kidnaped them and transported them by automobile from Texas to Oklahoma, and liberated them in the latter State. During the time Gooch and Nix were kidnaping the officers, they inflicted serious bodily injury upon one of the officers, from which injury he was suffering at the time of such liberation in the Oklahoma.

The Act of June 22, 1932, c. 271, 47 Stat. 326, provided:

That whoever shall knowingly transport or cause to be transported, or aid or abet in transporting, in interstate or foreign commerce, any person who shall have been unlawfully seized, confined, inveigled, decoyed, kidnaped, abducted, or carried away by any means whatsoever and held for ransom or reward shall, upon conviction,

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be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for such term of years as the court, in its discretion, shall determine.

The amending Act of May 18, 1934, c. 301, 48 Stat. 781, 18 U.S.C. § 408a, declares:

Whoever shall knowingly transport or cause to be transported, or aid or abet in transporting, in interstate or foreign commerce any person who shall have been unlawfully seized, confined, inveigled, decoyed, kidnaped, abducted, or carried away by any means whatsoever and held for ransom or reward or otherwise, except, in the case of a minor, by a parent thereof, shall, upon conviction, be...

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