Bee Pub. Co. v. State, Nos. 21314

CourtSupreme Court of Nebraska
Writing for the CourtDEAN
Citation107 Neb. 74,185 N.W. 339
Decision Date17 November 1921
Docket NumberNos. 21314,21315.
PartiesBEE PUB. CO. v. STATE. ROSEWATER v. STATE.

107 Neb. 74
185 N.W. 339

BEE PUB. CO.
v.
STATE.
ROSEWATER
v.
STATE.

Nos. 21314, 21315.

Supreme Court of Nebraska.

Nov. 17, 1921.



Syllabus by the Court.

The editor in chief of a metropolitan daily newspaper, owned by a defendant corporation, was joined with the corporation in a contempt proceeding, both being charged with having caused the publication of an article that tended to obstruct the due administration of justice in a suit then pending and undetermined in the district court. Both defendants were found guilty. It appearing that a fine of $1,000 was imposed upon the corporate owner of the newspaper, and that the editor had no knowledge of the objectionable article until after its publication, and the fact that this is his first offense, held, to be such mitigating circumstances as to justify a remittance of the fine imposed upon the editor.

The corporate owner of a metropolitan newspaper published an article respecting a criminal prosecution, then pending in the district court and undetermined, which took sides as between the state and the defendant. The article declared the innocence of the accused and indulged in violent comment respecting the evidence. Derogatory statements were made with respect to the credibility of the state's witnesses. The newspaper was published in the county seat and had an extensive circulation throughout the state and in the city and county of its domicile, the vicinity from which the jurors in the case should be drawn. Held, that in a proceeding for contempt the court did not err in imposing a fine upon the publishing company.

“Proceedings for contempt of court are, in this state, in their nature criminal, and governed by the strict rules applicable to prosecutions by indictment; hence presumption and intendments will not in such cases be indulged in order to sustain judgment of conviction.” Beckett v. State, 49 Neb. 210, 68 N. W. 473.

The freedom that is guaranteed by the Constitution to freely write and publish on all subjects, is qualified by the provision that imposes responsibility for the abuse of that freedom.

The right of the courts to impose punishment for contempt, arising from an abuse of the freedom of the press, as relating to causes pending in court and undetermined, is universally recognized.

The law will not suffer punishment to be imposed for a free expression of such criticism as a person or a publisher may entertain for the decisions of the courts.


Error to District Court, Douglas County; Redick, Judge.

The Bee Publishing Company and Victor Rosewater were found guilty of contempt of court and fined, and they bring error. Judgment of the district court imposing fine on Victor Rosewater vacated, but affirmed as to the fine imposed upon the Publishing Company.

[185 N.W. 339]

Rosewater & Cotner and W. J. Connell, all of Omaha, for plaintiffs in error.

Clarence A. Davis, Atty. Gen., and A. V.


Shotwell and C. L. Dort, Asst. Attys. Gen., for the State.

Heard before MORRISSEY, C. J., and DEAN, FLANSBURG, and LETTON, JJ.

DEAN, J.

On November 9, 1919, the Bee Publishing Company, a corporation, Victor Rosewater, and John H. Moore, defendants, were jointly informed against by the county attorney for Douglas county, under section 8236, Rev. St. 1913, and charged with a willful attempt to obstruct the proceedings and hinder the due administration of justice in a suit, then lately pending and undetermined, by the publication of a certain article in the Omaha Sunday Bee, November 9, 1919. Moore was acquitted, but the Bee Publishing

[185 N.W. 340]

Company and Rosewater were both found guilty of contempt and were each separately fined $1,000 and costs. They have brought the case here for review.

The exhibits and the evidence tend to show that the facts out of which this suit arose, and which form the basis of the newspaper story in question, are substantially these:

On the afternoon and night of Sunday, September 28, 1919, the Douglas county courthouse in Omaha was beset by a riotously assembled mob made up of several thousand persons who came together for the unconcealed purpose of lynching an inmate of the jail, who was suspected of having made an attempt to commit a heinous offense against a defenseless woman. The mob overpowered the police force and other of the city officials, all of whom were assisted by many law-abiding citizens, but to no avail, in an endeavor to restore order. The object of the mob's fury was seized and lynched, the courthouse was fired and in large part destroyed, and with it most of its contents, before the mob dispersed. Within about a week after the fire, namely, November 6, 1919, John H. Moore, a Bee reporter, was indicted by a grand jury specially called by the district court to inquire into the facts leading up to and connected with the riot and the fire. The indictment charged Moore with conspiring with others to commit arson. Two boys, named Morris and Thorpe, were suspected of being implicated in the riot and were arrested. While under arrest they testified before the grand jury and informed that body that they saw Moore, on the afternoon of the riot, leading a gang of boys to the courthouse, carrying gasoline and oils for the purpose of aiding in the conflagration. It was mainly on this evidence that the indictment against Moore was based.

Subsequently, and while the Moore case, pursuant to the indictment, was pending and undetermined in the district court, Morris and Thorpe furnished affidavits which in effect stated that their testimony before the grand jury with respect to Moore was false, and that it was obtained by coercion and intimidation practiced upon them, while under arrest, by certain members of the Omaha police force, and by promise of immunity from prosecution. The article that is set out in the information and that appears as an exhibit in the Omaha Bee of Sunday, November 9, 1919, and other like exhibits, purport to give an account of some of the circumstances attending the fire and the alleged unfair methods under which the testimony that implicated Moore was obtained. The article, or newspaper story in question, covers about two columns of the newspaper exhibit of Sunday, November 9, and about six pages of legal cap in the information. It is too extended to be fully reproduced in this opinion.

The following headlines that precede the article that is incorporated in the information are in large display type:

“Boys Disclose the Frame-Up--Promised Freedom by Police--Captain Haze Offered Liberty to Prisoners for False Testimony Before Grand Jury, They Declare in Affidavits--Rotten Police Methods Laid Bare by Youths--Admit They Never Saw Bee Man They Testified Against Until After Case had been Framed by Detectives.”

The excerpts in ordinary brevier type follow:

“Captain of Police Henry P. Haze ‘framed up’ the malicious and false testimony submitted to the grand jury...

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13 practice notes
  • State ex rel. Pulitzer Pub. Co. v. Coleman, No. 37053.
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • June 10, 1941
    ...De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353; In re Shuler, 210 Cal. 377; In re San Francisco Chronicle, 1 Cal. (2d) 630; Bee Publishing Co. v. State, 185 N.W. 339; State of Nebraska v. Lovell, 222 N.W. 625; Toledo Newspaper Company v. United States, 247 U.S. 402; People v. Wilson, 64 Ill. 195; Patters......
  • Pennekamp v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • July 24, 1945
    ...they degenerate into trial by newspaper (often called contempt by publication) and merit condemnation. Bee Publishing Company v. State, 107 Neb. 74, 185 N.W. 339. Under the English practice, trial by newspaper is punished speedily but wanton criticism of the court is rarely taken account of......
  • State ex rel. Wright v. Barlow, No. 29868.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • February 11, 1937
    ...1072;O'Chander v. State, 46 Neb. 10, 64 N.W. 373;Zimmerman v. State, 46 Neb. 13, 64 N.W. 375.” See, also, Bee Publishing Co. v. State, 107 Neb. 74, 185 N.W. 339;McCauley v. State, 124 Neb. 102, 245 N.W. 269; Maryott v. State, supra. Under the above authorities, we hold that a prosecution fo......
  • Tastee Inn, Inc. v. Beatrice Foods Co., No. 34399
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • October 31, 1958
    ...120 Neb. 630, 234 N.W. 574; Furrer v. Nebraska Building & Inv. Co., 109 Neb. 1, 189 N.W. 295; [167 Neb. 275] Bee Publishing Co. v. State, 107 Neb. 74, 185 N.W. 339. The record of the conviction as contained in the journal entry falls far short of complying with these The record of the convi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • State ex rel. Pulitzer Pub. Co. v. Coleman, No. 37053.
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • June 10, 1941
    ...De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353; In re Shuler, 210 Cal. 377; In re San Francisco Chronicle, 1 Cal. (2d) 630; Bee Publishing Co. v. State, 185 N.W. 339; State of Nebraska v. Lovell, 222 N.W. 625; Toledo Newspaper Company v. United States, 247 U.S. 402; People v. Wilson, 64 Ill. 195; Patters......
  • Pennekamp v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • July 24, 1945
    ...they degenerate into trial by newspaper (often called contempt by publication) and merit condemnation. Bee Publishing Company v. State, 107 Neb. 74, 185 N.W. 339. Under the English practice, trial by newspaper is punished speedily but wanton criticism of the court is rarely taken account of......
  • State ex rel. Wright v. Barlow, No. 29868.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • February 11, 1937
    ...1072;O'Chander v. State, 46 Neb. 10, 64 N.W. 373;Zimmerman v. State, 46 Neb. 13, 64 N.W. 375.” See, also, Bee Publishing Co. v. State, 107 Neb. 74, 185 N.W. 339;McCauley v. State, 124 Neb. 102, 245 N.W. 269; Maryott v. State, supra. Under the above authorities, we hold that a prosecution fo......
  • Tastee Inn, Inc. v. Beatrice Foods Co., No. 34399
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • October 31, 1958
    ...120 Neb. 630, 234 N.W. 574; Furrer v. Nebraska Building & Inv. Co., 109 Neb. 1, 189 N.W. 295; [167 Neb. 275] Bee Publishing Co. v. State, 107 Neb. 74, 185 N.W. 339. The record of the conviction as contained in the journal entry falls far short of complying with these The record of the convi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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