Beardslee v. United States

Decision Date21 December 1967
Docket NumberNo. 18565.,18565.
PartiesClarence Ernest BEARDSLEE, a/k/a Clarence Everett Beardslee, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit


James S. Nelson, of Costello, Porter, Hill, Banks & Nelson, Rapid City, S. D., for appellant.

David V. Vrooman, Asst. U. S. Atty., Sioux Falls, S. D., for appellee; Harold C. Doyle, U. S. Atty., Gene R. Bushnell, Asst. U. S. Atty., and Ronald Clabaugh, Asst. U. S. Atty., were on the brief.

Before BLACKMUN, MEHAFFY and GIBSON, Circuit Judges.

BLACKMUN, Circuit Judge.

Clarence E. Beardslee stands convicted by a federal jury of the murders of his mother, Charlotte Marie Schaeffer, and his eleven-year-old halfbrother, Gregory Eugene Schaeffer, at Mission, South Dakota, in June 1965. Both verdicts, rendered July 29, 1966, found him guilty of murder in the first degree, in violation, as charged in the indictment, of 18 U.S.C. § 1153,1 the so-called Ten Major Crimes Act, and § 1111.2 The jury, however, as § 1111(b) permits, qualified each verdict by adding to it the words "without capital punishment". The defendant thus escaped the death penalty which the statute otherwise imposes. He received the alternatively prescribed life sentence on each conviction. This in forma pauperis appeal followed.

Beardslee, born May 27, 1948, was 17 years of age at the time his mother and half-brother were killed. He had completed his freshman year of high school. He possesses one-eighth Indian blood and is an enrolled member of the Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota. Although the point was suggested in a pretrial motion and ruled adversely to the defense, no issue is before us as to the defendant's status as an Indian, within the meaning of § 1153.

The indictment, filed August 20, 1965, is in two counts. The first charges that Beardslee, an Indian under the wardship of the United States, with premeditation and malice aforethought, murdered Mrs. Schaeffer, also a wardship Indian, "by means of shooting her with a rifle". The second identically charges Beardslee with the murder of Gregory "by stabbing him with a knife".

The evidence. The government's case was based upon circumstantial evidence and admissions. The bodies of Mrs. Schaeffer and Gregory were discovered in their house on the night of June 18, 1965. The woman had been killed by a 30.06 rifle bullet. Gregory had died from multiple knife wounds. A 30.06 caliber rifle was in the living room. Three blood stained knives were found, one next to Gregory, one on a table, and one on the kitchen sink. No latent fingerprints were on the rifle. The fragments of the bullet were too mutilated for a positive identification as having been shot from the rifle. Beardslee's fingerprints were on the knife found on the kitchen sink. The blood on the knife, however, could not be identified by group. A box of rifle shells was discovered hidden in the water tank of the lavatory. It contained 19 unused cartridges and the spent casing of one cartridge. That casing had been fired from the rifle. The kitchen wall clock was on the floor and had stopped at 3:43, indicating that the murders took place about that time on Friday morning, June 18.

Mrs. Schaeffer and Gregory had last been seen the night before. The defendant had been dropped off at the house about 9:30 p. m. on June 17. On the 18th he was seen at the Checkerboard Cafe in Mission at about 5:30 a. m. He was clean and well-groomed. He had his mother's car and purchased gasoline for it at six a. m., when the service station opened, and drove east out of town. The car was found abandoned on the highway later that morning. One license plate was bent over and the other was under the car. The defendant was arrested in Oklahoma on June 24 for a traffic violation while driving a car with Texas license plates.

One day in the latter part of May, 1965, the defendant had remarked in a conversation with a friend that he was going to kill his mother and halfbrother and burn the house down. In a letter to his aunt about that time he wrote that he would some day kill "that little bastard" Gregory. Three or four days before the killings the defendant had attempted to purchase rifle shells at a service station and one or two days before the killings he did purchase a box of twenty 30.06 caliber rifle shells from a lumber company in Mission. On June 18 the defendant telephoned long distance to a friend of his aunt in New York State and indicated that he was in jail for murder and that he was going to turn himself in. A postcard written by Beardslee to an aunt sometime after June 18 reads: "Just like the T.V. show but I like it. The Fugitive. P. S. You won't ever see me again for about twenty years. Don't try. Don't show this to anyone". While in custody in the Deadwood, South Dakota, jail prior to trial the defendant threatened two other inmates with the statement, "I have killed two people already, and two more don't make that much difference to me".

This was the government's case.

Beardslee did not take the stand. The principal defense was insanity at the time of the killings. (Beardslee's competency to stand trial is not questioned). Testimony was introduced to the effect that the defendant was raised, for the most part, by his grandmother and aunt and was little cared for by his mother; that he had never known his father; that his mother was twice divorced; that she was a woman of loose morals; that she mistreated him and preferred Gregory to him; and that a short time before the killings he had witnessed his mother in bed having intercourse with a man. On the insanity issue the defense relies upon the testimony of Howard C. Wilinsky, M.D., then a staff psychiatrist at the United States medical center for federal prisoners at Springfield, Missouri. Beardslee had been sent to Springfield, pursuant to a defense motion under 18 U.S.C. § 4244, for an examination as to his competency to stand trial. Dr. Wilinsky testified that the defendant was competent to stand trial but, in his opinion, was not responsible for his actions on the night of the killings; that he was suffering an acute schizophrenic reaction; and that he was legally insane. The government countered with psychiatric opinion, on a hypothetical question, that the defendant was merely a psychopath who had stabbed a woman on a previous occasion and who was fully responsible for his actions.

The issues. These relate to federal jurisdiction; the trial court's instructions on degrees of murder and insanity; the court's refusal to limit the testimony of two government witnesses; and the court's comments on the evidence. The pertinent facts will be recited as these issues are respectively considered. No point is raised as to the sufficiency of the evidence or as to the identity of the defendant as the perpetrator of the homicides.

A. Jurisdiction. The threshold question of federal jurisdiction is posed by the defense position that the alleged crimes did not take place "within the Indian country", as is required for the application of § 1153, the exclusive federal jurisdiction statute set forth in pertinent part in footnote 1, supra. This necessary component of the crimes was submitted to the jury when it was instructed that, in passing on the innocence or guilt of the defendant, it must "decide the question whether or not the offenses were committed in Mission, Todd County, in the Rosebud Reservation of South Dakota". It was also submitted to the court on the defense's several motions to dismiss.

There is no dispute as to the facts which bear upon jurisdiction. The alleged offenses were committed within the original outer boundaries of the Rosebud Reservation but in a house on land then owned by non-Indians and rented to Mrs. Schaeffer by these non-Indian owners. The lot on which the house stands was part of an area which had been platted as an addition to the town of Mission in Todd County. The United States issued a patent for the land to an Indian allottee on July 5, 1912. This Indian title was thereafter extinguished by a conveyance to non-Indians in August 1959. The plat was dedicated September 1, 1959. Thus the site is within the reservation's outer boundaries but on platted land owned by a non-Indian.

"Indian country", as that term is employed in § 1153, is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1151.3 The definition of clause (a) of § 1151 would seem clearly to include the town of Mission, and the site of the alleged offenses, for it is "within the limits" of the Rosebud Reservation "notwithstanding the issuance of" the 1912 patent. The defense, however, pivots its jurisdictional argument on clause (c), which would include, within the definition of Indian country, "all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which have not been extinguished". It is then urged that, by inference, an Indian title which has been extinguished is outside the definition.

We decide this issue against the defense. We do so in view of the following:

1. The Rosebud Reservation was established by, and is described in, § 2 of the Act of March 2, 1889, 25 Stat. 888. The boundaries of Todd County, in which the town of Mission is located, are laid down in S.D.Code, § 12.0162 (1939). All of Todd County is obviously within the original boundaries of the Rosebud Reservation. Only three Acts of Congress have affected the territory of the reservation since its establishment in 1889 and none of these concern Todd County. Act of April 23, 1904, 33 Stat. 254; Act of March 2, 1907, 34 Stat. 1230; Act of May 30, 1910, 36 Stat. 448. No part of the Todd County portion of the reservation has ever been formally opened. Instead, that portion has remained closed since 1889. The general geographical situation is thus clear.

2. The Supreme Court decisions seem clearly to indicate and favor federal jurisdiction. In United States v. Celestine, 215 U.S. 278, 285, 30 S.Ct. 93, 95, 54 L.Ed. 195 (1909),...

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