53 U.S. 361 (1852), U.s. v. Reid

Citation53 U.S. 361, 13 L.Ed. 1023
Party NameTHE UNITED STATES, PLAINTIFFS, v. THOMAS REID AND EDWARD CLEMENTS.
Case DateFebruary 06, 1852
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 361

53 U.S. 361 (1852)

13 L.Ed. 1023

THE UNITED STATES, PLAINTIFFS,

v.

THOMAS REID AND EDWARD CLEMENTS.

United States Supreme Court.

February 06, 1852

THIS case came up from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Virginia, upon a certificate of division in opinion between the judges thereof.

The facts are all stated in the opinion of the court.

COUNSEL

It was argued by Mr. Joynes and Mr. Crittenden, (Attorney-General,) for the United States, and by Mr. Crane and Mr. Scott, for the defendants.

OPINION

Mr. Chief Justice TANEY delivered the opinion of the court.

This case comes before the court upon a certificate of division between the judges of the Circuit Court for the District of Virginia.

Thomas Reid and Edward Clements were jointly indicted for murder, committed by them on the high seas, on board the American ship J. B. Lindsey.

They were, by the permission of the court, separately tried, and, upon the trial of Reid, he proposed to call Clements as a witness on his behalf. The court rejected the testimony, being of opinion that, as he was jointly indicted with the prisoner on the trial, he was not a competent witness. Reid was found guilty by the jury.

At a subsequent day he moved for a new trial upon two grounds: 1st. Because the testimony of Clements was improperly rejected: and, 2d. For misbehavior in two of the jury who tried the cause. In support of the second objection, he offered in evidence the voluntary affidavits of the two jurors, one of

Page 362

whom deposed 'that, while the case was on trial, and the jury were impanelled, a newspaper was sent to him by some of his family from his counting-room. It was a newspaper for which he was a subscriber, which was regularly left at his counting-house, and which he was accustomed to read. He looked slightly over it, and saw that it contained a report of the evidence which had been given in the case under trial, a part of which he read and put the paper in his pocket; that, while the jury were in their room deliberating on their verdict, he read over the report of the evidence in the newspaper; he read it from curiosity, and thought it correct, and that it refreshed his memory; but it had no influence on his verdict, and that he had made up his mind before he read it. There was no conversation about the newspaper report in the jury-room, nor did he speak of it there to any one, nor does he know that the other jurors knew that the report of the evidence was in the newspaper they saw him reading.'

The other juror deposed 'that he saw this newspaper while the jury was impanelled in the court-room, and, upon looking at it, saw that it contained a report of the evidence that had been given in the case under trial. He looked over a few sentences and put the paper aside, and did not see it afterwards. He did not think the report accurate; it had not the slightest influence on his judgment.'

Upon the argument of the motion above mentioned the following questions arose:

1st. Ought the court to have received the evidence of Clements in behalf of the prisoner; and does the refusal of the court to admit his testimony entitle the prisoner to a new trial?

2d. Ought the affidavits of the two jurors to be received; and do the facts stated in them entitle the prisoner to a new trial?

And upon each of these points the judges of the Circuit Court were opposed in opinion, and ordered that the questions be certified to the Supreme Court for its decision.

The difficulty in the first question arose upon the construction of the 34th section of the act of Congress of 1789.

By a statute of Virginia, adopted in 1849, it is provided 'that no person who is not jointly tried with the defendant shall be incompetent to testify in any prosecution by reason of interest in the subject-matter thereof.' And if the section in the Judiciary Act above referred to extends to the testimony in criminal cases in the courts of the United States, then the testimony of Clements was improperly rejected.

The section in question declares that the laws of the several

Page 363

states, except where the Constitution, treaties, or statutes of the United States shall otherwise require or provide, shall be regarded as rules of decision, in trials at common law, in the courts of the United States, in cases where they apply.

The language of this section cannot, upon any fair construction, be extended beyond civil cases at common law, as contradistinguished from suits in equity. So far as concerns rights of property, it is the only rule that could be adopted by the courts of the United States, and the only one that Congress had the power to establish. And the section above quoted was merely intended to confer on the courts of the United States the jurisdiction necessary to enable them to administer the laws of the states. But it could not be supposed, without very plain words to show it, that Congress intended to give to the states the power of prescribing the rules of evidence in trials for offences against the United States. For this construction would in effect place the criminal jurisprudence of one sovereignty under the control of another. It is evident that such could not be the design of this act of Congress, and that the statute of Virginia was not the law by which the admissibility of Clements as a witness ought to have been decided.

Neither could the court look altogether to the rules of the English common law, as it existed at the time of the settlement of this country, for reasons that will presently be stated. Nor is there any act of Congress prescribing in express words the rule by which the courts of the United States are to be governed, in the admission of testimony in criminal cases. But we think it may be found with sufficient certainty, not indeed in direct terms, but by necessary implication, in the acts of 1789 and 1790, establishing the courts of the United States, and providing for the punishment of certain offences. And the law by which, in the opinion of this court, the admissibility of testimony in criminal cases must be determined, is the law of the state, as it was when the courts of the United States were established by the Judiciary Act of 1789. The subject is a grave one, and it is therefore proper that the court should state fully the grounds of its decision.

The colonists who established the English colonies in this country, undoubtedly brought with them the common and statute laws of England, as they stood at the time of their emigration, so far as they were...

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116 practice notes
  • 763 F.2d 1040 (9th Cir. 1985), 84-1121, United States v. Gatto
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • 14 Junio 1985
    ...abide by any express or implied limits placed by Congress on its mandates. See, e.g., United States v. Reid, 53 U.S. (12 How.) 361, 365, 13 L.Ed. 1023 (1851); Beale, Reconsidering Supervisory Power in Criminal Cases: Constitutional and Statutory Limits on the Authority of the Federal Courts......
  • 168 A.2d 510 (Md. 1961), 154, Presley v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 22 Marzo 1961
    ...other. The article simply attempted to state Page 513 what the charges were against the appellant. United States v. Reid, 12 How. 361, 13 L.Ed. 1023. In support of this contention the appellant seems to rely exclusively upon Basiliko v. State, 212 Md. 248, 129 A.2d 375. This argument ignore......
  • 43 F.2d 890 (8th Cir. 1930), 8796, Tinsley v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
    • 26 Septiembre 1930
    ...Record June 9, 1930, reviewing all the leading cases on this subject from the initial one of United States v. Reid, 12 How. 361, 13 L.Ed. 1023, down to the Jin Fuey Moy Case: 'Where are we now? An attempt to reconcile a line of authorities in which some later cases have been decided without......
  • 60 F.2d 218 (10th Cir. 1932), 580, Bankers' Mortg. Co. of Topeka, Kan. v. McComb
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
    • 18 Julio 1932
    ...v. Gill (D. C. N. M.) 55 F.2d 399, 403; United States v. Maxwell, 3 Dill. 275, Fed. Cas. No. 15,750; United States v. Reid, 12 How. 361, 13 L.Ed. 1023; United States v. Baugh (C. C.) 1 F. 784, While intervention was a well recognized remedy of the Roman civil law, in jurisdictions in which ......
  • Free signup to view additional results
115 cases
  • 763 F.2d 1040 (9th Cir. 1985), 84-1121, United States v. Gatto
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • 14 Junio 1985
    ...abide by any express or implied limits placed by Congress on its mandates. See, e.g., United States v. Reid, 53 U.S. (12 How.) 361, 365, 13 L.Ed. 1023 (1851); Beale, Reconsidering Supervisory Power in Criminal Cases: Constitutional and Statutory Limits on the Authority of the Federal Courts......
  • 168 A.2d 510 (Md. 1961), 154, Presley v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 22 Marzo 1961
    ...other. The article simply attempted to state Page 513 what the charges were against the appellant. United States v. Reid, 12 How. 361, 13 L.Ed. 1023. In support of this contention the appellant seems to rely exclusively upon Basiliko v. State, 212 Md. 248, 129 A.2d 375. This argument ignore......
  • 43 F.2d 890 (8th Cir. 1930), 8796, Tinsley v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
    • 26 Septiembre 1930
    ...Record June 9, 1930, reviewing all the leading cases on this subject from the initial one of United States v. Reid, 12 How. 361, 13 L.Ed. 1023, down to the Jin Fuey Moy Case: 'Where are we now? An attempt to reconcile a line of authorities in which some later cases have been decided without......
  • 60 F.2d 218 (10th Cir. 1932), 580, Bankers' Mortg. Co. of Topeka, Kan. v. McComb
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
    • 18 Julio 1932
    ...v. Gill (D. C. N. M.) 55 F.2d 399, 403; United States v. Maxwell, 3 Dill. 275, Fed. Cas. No. 15,750; United States v. Reid, 12 How. 361, 13 L.Ed. 1023; United States v. Baugh (C. C.) 1 F. 784, While intervention was a well recognized remedy of the Roman civil law, in jurisdictions in which ......
  • Free signup to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • THE DEATH OF COMMON LAW.
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. 42 Nbr. 2, March 2019
    • 22 Marzo 2019
    ...to such cases as we have here...."). The "dead hand" rule was the product of the Court's opinion in United States v. Reid, 53 U.S. 361 (1852), holding that the competency of federal court witnesses in criminal trials must be decided based on state evidence rules in force at t......