Anna Valentina v. James Mercer

Decision Date12 March 1906
Docket NumberNo. 404,404
Citation201 U.S. 131,26 S.Ct. 368,50 L.Ed. 693
PartiesANNA VALENTINA, Appt. , v. JAMES W. MERCER, Sheriff of Bergen County, New Jersey
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

The appellant has appealed from an order of the United States circuit for the district of New Jersey, refusing her application for a writ of habeas corpus.

In her application for the writ, appellant stated that she had been indicted in the Bergen county court of oyer and terminer, in the state of New Jersey, in April, 1904, for the murder of one Rosa Salza, and that she had been convicted on the trial of such indictment by a jury, and sentenced to be hanged on the 19th day of May, 1904. She averred that she had been convicted without authority of law, and that her conviction was null and void, because the question of her guilt or innocence of murder was not entertained by the court or submitted to the jury, as the law of New Jersey expressly requires in all cases where parties are indicted for murder, but, on the contrary, she averred that evidence was taken in said court in said proceedings on her trial merely to determine the degree of her guilt; that her counsel, assigned by the court to represent her in said proceedings, had so stated in a petition in her behalf, made to the court of pardons of the state of New Jersey. She further said that it was stated by her counsel, in that same petition, that she had pleaded guilty when she was arraigned, but that, under the direction of the court, a plea of not guilty was entered so that evidence might be taken for the purpose of determining the degree of guilt. The averment she denied. The petitioner claimed that the proceedings were wholly unwarranted by the law of New Jersey; and that the court and her counsel proceeded under the impression that § 68 of the act for the punishment of crimes, approved March 27, 1874, which provided that 'if a person indicted for murder should be convicted by confession in open court, the court should proceed by examining witnesses to determine the degree of the crime,' was then in existence, whereas she said the act had been repealed in 1893, and the present law passed, which provides, 'if, upon arraignment, such plea of guilty shall be offered, it shall be disregarded and a plea of not guilty entered, and a jury impaneled shall try the case in manner aforesaid.' The petitioner urged in her petition that by the proceedings adopted upon her trial she was deprived of all benefit of the presumption of innocence and of reasonable doubt to which she was entitled by law, and that the questions of self-defense and manslaughter, fairly raised by her testimony, were excluded from the consideration of the jury, and the question submitted to them was limited by the court simply as to whether she was guilty of murder in the first degree or not, and the benefit of reasonable doubt was confined to that point.

A writ of error was sued out by the petitioner and her case was brought before the court of errors and appeals, the highest court of the state of New Jersey, for the purpose of review, and, after a hearing, that court refused a new trial. The case is reported in 71 N. J. L. 552, 60 Atl. 177.

It appears from the record herein that upon the trial proof was given that the petitioner stabbed the deceased with a knife a great many times in the neck and breast, killing her instantly. Counsel who had been assigned to defend the petitioner called her as a witness, and she admitted that she stabbed the deceased and killed her. She said that the deceased had a child in her arms at the time, and that the petitioner said to her that she did not want to raise any trouble, and told her to put the child away, but that the deceased had the knife in her hand, right behind her dress, and that when petitioner saw that she had the knife and that the deceased was going to stab her, petitioner took the knife and grabbed the deceased by the hair, and before deceased stabbed her she took the knife away from her and stabbed the deceased.

Upon opening for the defense her counsel said as follows:

'This defendant, when arraigned in open court, made confession of the commission of this crime, and you, gentlemen of the jury, from the evidence that has been produced on the part of the state, and that which shall be offered on the part of the defense, will simply have to determine what the degree of guilt shall be; your verdict will be either that she is guilty of the taking of the life of this woman, Mrs. Salza, with malice aforethought, premeditated, which would mean a verdict of murder in the first degree, or your verdict will be murder in the...

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10 cases
  • United States v. Hendricks
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • 2 Junio 1954
    ...199 U.S. 425, 26 S.Ct. 87, 50 L.Ed. 256; Felts v. Murphy, 1906, 201 U.S. 123, 26 S.Ct. 366, 50 L.Ed. 689; Valentina v. Mercer, 1906, 201 U.S. 131, 26 S.Ct. 368, 50 L. Ed. 693; Hunter v. Wood, 1908, 209 U. S. 205, 28 S.Ct. 472, 52 L.Ed. 747; Frank v. Mangum, 1915, 237 U.S. 309, 35 S.Ct. 582,......
  • Daniels v. Allen, 6330.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • 5 Noviembre 1951 impose sentence. Moore v. Dempsey, supra; Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309, 331, 35 S.Ct. 582, 59 L.Ed. 969; Cf. Valentina v. Mercer, 201 U.S. 131, 26 S.Ct. 368, 50 L.Ed. 693. "2. The federal court should not issue the writ, even in the extraordinary cases above indicated, unless it is made......
  • Eureka County Bank Habeas Corpus Cases
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court
    • 9 Septiembre 1912
    ... ... [126 P. 657] ...          James ... Glynn and Oscar J. Smith, for petitioners ... Murphy, 201 U.S. 123, 26 ... S.Ct. 366, 50 L.Ed. 689; Valentina" v. Mercer, 201 ... U.S. 131, 26 S.Ct. 368, 50 L.Ed. 693 ...      \xC2" ... ...
  • Bostic v. Rives
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • 7 Agosto 1939
    ...In re Lennon, 166 U.S. 548 17 S.Ct. 658, 41 L.Ed. 1110; Felts v. Murphy, 201 U.S. 123 26 S.Ct. 366, 50 L.Ed. 689; Valentina v. Mercer, 201 U.S. 131 26 S.Ct. 368, 50 L.Ed. 693; Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309 35 S.Ct. 582, 59 L.Ed. 969. ". . . It has been uniformly held by this Court that the ......
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