Bram v. United States, No. 340

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWHITE
Citation42 L.Ed. 568,168 U.S. 532,18 S.Ct. 183
PartiesBRAM v. UNITED STATES
Decision Date13 December 1897
Docket NumberNo. 340

168 U.S. 532
18 S.Ct. 183
42 L.Ed. 568
BRAM

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 340.
December 13, 1897.

[Syllabus from pages 532-534 intentionally omitted]

Page 534

Asa P. French and James E. Cotter, for plaintiff in error.

Asst. Atty. Gen. Boyd, for the United States.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.

This writ of error is prosecuted to a verdict and sentence thereon, by which the plaintiff was found guilty of murder, and condemned to suffer death. The homicide was committed on board the American ship Herbert Fuller, While on the high seas, bound from Boston to a port in South America. The accused was the first officer of the ship, and the deceased, of whose murder he was convicted, was the master of the vessel. The bill of exceptions, after stating the sailing of the vessel from Boston on the 2d of July, 1896, with a cargo of lumber, gives a general summary of the facts leading up to and surrounding the homicide, as follows:

'She had on board a captain, Charles I. Nash; Bram, the defendant; a second mate, August W. Blomberg; a steward; and six seamen; also the captain's wife, Laura A. Nash, and one passenger, Lester H. Monks.

'The vessel proceeded on her course towards her port of destination until the night between July 13th and July 14th. On that night, at 12 o'clock, the second mate's watch was relieved by the mate's watch, of which Bram, the defendant, was

Page 535

the officer in charge. The captain, his wife, the passenger, Monks, and the first mate and the second mate, all lived in the after-cabin, occupying separate rooms. * * * The crew and the steward slept forward in the forward house.

'When the watch was changed at midnight, Bram, the defendant, took the deck, the seamen Loheac and Perdok went forward on the lookout, and Charles Brown (otherwise called Justus Leopold Westerberg, his true name) took the wheel, where it was his duty to remain till two o'clock, at about which time he was relieved by Loheac. The second mate went to his room and the seamen of his watch to their quarters at twelve midnight, and there was no evidence that any of them or the steward appeared again till daylight.

'The passenger, Monks, who occupied a room on the starboard side of the cabin, between the chart room where the captain slept and the room on the forward starboard side where Mrs. Nash slept, with doors opening from the passenger's room into both the chart room used by the captain as his room and that of Mrs. Nash, was aroused not far from two o'clock (the exact time is not known, as he says) by a scream, and by another sound, characterized by him as a gurgling sound. He arose, went to the captain § room, and found the captain's cot overturned, and the captain lying on the floor by it. He spoke, but got no answer; put his hand on the captain's body, and found it damp or wet. He then went to Mrs. Nash's room; did not see her, but saw dark spots on her bedding, and suspected something wrong. He went on deck, and called the mate, the defendant, telling him the captain was killed. Both went below, took down the lantern hanging in the main cabin, burning dimly, turned it up, and went through the captain's room to the passenger's room, and the passenger there put on a shirt and pantaloons. They then both returned to the deck, the mate on the way stopping a brief time in his own room. Bram and Monks remained talking of deck till about daybreak, when the steward was called, and told what had happened. Up to this time no call had been made for the second mate, nor had any one visited his room. Later it was found that Captain Nash, his wife, and

Page 536

Blomberg, the second mate, were all dead, each with several wounds upon the head, apparently given with a sharp instrument, like an ax, penetrating the skull, and into the substance of the brain; and the second mate lying on his back, with his feet crossed, in his berth; Mrs. Nash in her bed, in her room, and at the back side of the bed; and Captain Nash in his room, as already stated.

'The whole crew was called at or about daylight, and were informed of the deaths.

'The bodies were removed from the cabin, and placed in the jolly boat, and the boat was towed astern to Halifax. The cabin was then locked, Bram taking the keys, and it remained locked till the vessel reached Halifax.

'At first, after the discovery of the murders, there was some hesitancy as to where the vessel should go. At the defendant's suggestion, she was headed to go to Cavenne, in French Guiana; but the plan was changed, and she steered for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she arrived July 21st, and was taken possession of by the local authorities, at the instance of the consul general of the United States.

'At first, after the discovery of the murders, Bram, on whom had devolved the command of the ship, made Brown chief mate and Loheac second mate.

'No blood or spots of blood were ever discovered on the person or the clothing of any person on board, nor did anything direct suspicion to any one.

'In a day or two, suspicion having been excited in respect to the seaman Brown, the crew, under the supervision of Bram, seized him, he not resisting, and put him in irons. All the while the officers and seamen remained on deck. Bram navigated the ship until Sunday before they reached Halifax, on Tuesday, and after the land of Nova Scotia was in sight, when, Brown having stated to his shipmates, or some of them, that he saw into the cabin through a window in the after-part and on the starboard side of the house, and saw Bram, the mate, kill the captain, in consequence of this statement of Brown, the crew, led by the steward, suddenly overpowered the mate, and put him in irons, he making no resistance, but

Page 537

declaring his innocence. Bram and Brown were both carried into Halifax in irons.'

The bill of exceptions further states that, when the ship arrived at Halifax, the accused and Brown were held in custody by the chief of police at that place, and that, while in such custody, the accused was taken from prison to the office of a detective, and there questioned, under circumstances to be hereafter stated. Subsequently to this occurrence at Halifax, all the officers, the crew, and the passenger were examined before the American consul, and gave their statements, which were reduced to writing and sworn to. They were thereafter, at the request of the American consul, sent to Boston, where the accused was indicted for the murder of Nash, the captain, of Mrs. Nash, and the second mate, Blomberg. The trial and the conviction now under review related to the first of these charges. The errors which are here assigned as grounds for reversal are more han 60 in number, and are classified by the counsel for the accused as follows: (a) Questions raised preliminary to the trial; (b) questions raised during the trial; (c) questions raised in connection with two motions for a new trial.

We first examine the error relied on which seems to us deserving of the most serious consideration. During the trial, a detective, by whom the accused was questioned while at Halifax, was placed upon the stand as a witness for the prosecution, for the purpose of testifying to the conversation had between himself and the accused at Halifax, at the time and place already stated. What took place between the accused and the detective at the time of the conversation, and what occurred when the witness was tendered in order to prove the confession, is thus stated in the bill of exceptions:

'Nicholas Power, of Halifax, called by the government, testified that he was connected with the police department of Halifax, and had been for thirty-two years, and for the last fifteen years of that time as a detective officer; that after the arrival of the Herbert Fuller at Halifax, in consequence of a conversation with Charles Brown, he made an examination of Bram, the defendant, in the witness' office, in the city hall

Page 538

at Halifax, when no one was present besides Bram and the witness. The witness testified that no threats were made in any way to Bram, nor any inducements held out to him.

'The witness was then asked: 'What did you say to him and he to you?'

'To this the defendant's counsel objected. The defendant's counsel was permitted to cross-examine the witness before the court ruled upon the objection, and the witness stated that the conversation took place in his office, where he had caused the defendant, Bram, to be brought by a police officer; that up to that time the defendant had been in the custody of the police authorities of Halifax, in the custody of the superintendent of police, John O'Sullivan; that the witness asked that the defendant should be brought to his office for the purpose of interviewing him; that at his office he stripped the defendant, and examined his clothing, but not his pockets; that he told the defendant to submit to an examination, and that he searched him; that the defendant was then in custody, and did everything the witness directed him to do; that the witness was then a police officer, acting in his official capacity; that all this took place before the defendant had been examined before the United States consul; and that the witness did not know that the local authorities had at that time taken any action, but that the defendant was held for the United States,—for the consul general of the United States.

'The witness answered questions by the court as follows:

"You say there was no inducement to him in the way of promise or expectation of advantage?

"A. Not any, your honor.

"Q. Held out?

"A. Not any, your honor.

"Q. Nor anything said in the way of suggestion to him that he might suffer if he did not,—that it might be worse for him?

"A. No, sir; not any.

"Q. So far as you were concerned, it was entirely voluntary?

"A. Voluntary, indeed.

Page 539

"Q. No influence on your part exerted to persuade him on way or the other?

"A....

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1318 practice notes
  • Miller v. Fenton, No. 83-5530
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 28, 1984
    ...proper psychiatric treatment under Miller's parole for a prior crime. 19 Appellant relies on the venerable case of Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 542-43, 18 S.Ct. 183, 186-87, 42 L.Ed. 568 (1897), in which the court stated that a confession is involuntary if "obtained by any direct or......
  • U.S. v. Pace, Nos. 87-2529
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 15, 1990
    ...According to Cialoni, the statements were involuntary because the agents induced them by making false promises. See Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 18 S.Ct. 183, 42 L.Ed. 568 (1897). Specifically, Cialoni contends that the DEA agents promised him that his statements would be "confident......
  • Corley v. United States, No. 07–10441.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 6, 2009
    ...1208, 88 L.Ed. 1481 (1944) ; Ziang Sung Wan v. United States, 266 U.S. 1, 15, 45 S.Ct. 1, 69 L.Ed. 131 (1924) ; Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 545, 18 S.Ct. 183, 42 L.Ed. 568 (1897). In making these statements, this Court certainly did not mean to suggest that a voluntary confession m......
  • United States v. Poole, No. 72-1533.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • January 17, 1974
    ...It is not established that "the making of the statement was voluntary." Bram v. United States, supra, 168 U.S. at 549, 18 S.Ct. at 189, 42 L.Ed. 568. The foregoing is by no means all the undisputed evidence. There is also no dispute that appellant was a heroin addict. Appellant claims that ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1313 cases
  • Miller v. Fenton, No. 83-5530
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 28, 1984
    ...proper psychiatric treatment under Miller's parole for a prior crime. 19 Appellant relies on the venerable case of Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 542-43, 18 S.Ct. 183, 186-87, 42 L.Ed. 568 (1897), in which the court stated that a confession is involuntary if "obtained by any direct or......
  • U.S. v. Pace, Nos. 87-2529
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 15, 1990
    ...According to Cialoni, the statements were involuntary because the agents induced them by making false promises. See Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 18 S.Ct. 183, 42 L.Ed. 568 (1897). Specifically, Cialoni contends that the DEA agents promised him that his statements would be "confident......
  • Corley v. United States, No. 07–10441.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 6, 2009
    ...1208, 88 L.Ed. 1481 (1944) ; Ziang Sung Wan v. United States, 266 U.S. 1, 15, 45 S.Ct. 1, 69 L.Ed. 131 (1924) ; Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 545, 18 S.Ct. 183, 42 L.Ed. 568 (1897). In making these statements, this Court certainly did not mean to suggest that a voluntary confession m......
  • United States v. Poole, No. 72-1533.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • January 17, 1974
    ...It is not established that "the making of the statement was voluntary." Bram v. United States, supra, 168 U.S. at 549, 18 S.Ct. at 189, 42 L.Ed. 568. The foregoing is by no means all the undisputed evidence. There is also no dispute that appellant was a heroin addict. Appellant claims that ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Rights, Structure, and Remediation: The Collapse of Constitutional Remedies.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 7, May 2022
    • May 1, 2022
    ...of these rules, the Court said, was inadmissible at trial. Id. at 476. (68.) See, e.g., U.S. CONST, amend. V; Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 542-43 (69.) See Miranda, 384 U.S. at 526-31 (White, J., dissenting); Hopt v. Utah, no U.S. 574, 584 (1884); Commonwealth v. Morey, 67 Mass. (1 ......
  • Torture and the Fifth Amendment
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 33-1, March 2008
    • March 1, 2008
    ...UK: Clarendon Press.Blitzer, C. (1981). The political writings of James Harrington. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532 (1897).Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278 (1936).Bufacchi, V., & Arrigo, J. M. (2006). Torture,terrorism and the state: A refutation of the t......
  • Interrogation Technique Endorsement by Current Law Enforcement, Future Law Enforcement, and Laypersons
    • United States
    • Police Quarterly Nbr. 11-3, September 2008
    • September 1, 2008
    ...H. (1999). The ecological validity of jury simulations: Is the jury still out? Law and Human Behavior, 23, 75-91. Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 542 (1897).Brown v. State of Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278 (1936).Butcher, J., Dahlstrom, W., Graham, J., Tellegen, A., & Kaemmer, B. (1989). Mi......

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