Brown v. United States

Decision Date06 November 1893
Docket NumberNo. 758,758
Citation14 S.Ct. 37,37 L.Ed. 1010,150 U.S. 93
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

A. H. Garland, for plaintiff in error.

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

Mr. Justice JACKSON delivered the opinion of the court.

John Brown, the plaintiff in error, was indicted and convicted for the murder of Josiah Poorboy and Thomas Whitehead on December 8, 1891, at the Cherokee Nation, in the Indian Territory, and on April 30, 1892, was sentenced to be hanged.

It appears from the record that Poorboy and Whitehead were deputy marshals who had been trying to arrest James Craig, an escaped prisoner, for whose apprehension a small reward had been offered, and who was the co-respondent in a suit brought by Brown Hitchcock against his wife for divorce on the ground of adultery.

On the night of the murder, the plaintiff in error, with John Roach and Wacoo Hampton, an escaped convict, were at the house of Mrs. Hitchcock, and at her request started out to find Craig. They did not succeed, and, on their way back, Hampton, who had gone on a short distance ahead, stopped in front of the house of Shirley, where it was known White- head was staying, and called out for Whitehead. The latter came out, accompanied by Poorboy, both being armed. As they appeared, Wacoo Hampton rode off; and, about the time the marshals reached the roadway, Roach and the plainitff in error, mounted on one horse, rode up. Whitehead asked if either of them was Matthew Craig, a brother of James Craig, and, when he was told 'No,' he said he 'would arrest them anyhow,' and told them to get off the horse, and lay down their guns. They dismounted, and Roach laid his gun down on the ground. As he straightened up, some one fired, and the shot struck him in the arm. He then ran away, but Wacoo Hampton returned, and a shooting affray ensued. The proof tended strongly to establish the fact that the plaintiff in error killed Whitehead; but, as to whether he or Wacoo Hampton killed Poorboy, the testimony was inconclusive. A few days after the murder, Hampton, who resisted arrest, was killed.

Among the assignments of error specially relied on, and which is apparently well taken, is the seventh assignment. As presented in the record by the plaintiff in error, it is claimed that the court charged the jury that, 'if self-defense does not exist, the only other condition that can exist in the case is a state of murder.' This charge would have been clearly erroneous, but, by reference to the charge of the court itself, it appears that the assignment of error omits a material part of the charge. What the court really said was this: 'I give you the law of manslaughter, because it has been invoked in the case, and you are to see whether it exists; and because you may apply the doctrine of exclusion to enable you to come to the conclusion as to whether murder exists or not, because, if self-defense does not exist, and if manslaughter does not exist, the only other condition that can exist in the case is a state of murder. Manslaughter is the willful and unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, and it occupies a midway position between a state of case where the law of self-defense would apply, and a state of case where the law defining 'murder' applies.' This language, and what was said in other parts of the charge upon the subject of manslaughter, as set out in the record, is not open to exception.

It is next insisted on behalf of the plaintiff in error that the court erred in refusing to give the following instruction, which was asked for the defendant:

'(1) Manslaughter is an unlawful and willful killing, but without malice, and is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding ten years, and fine not exceeding one thousand dollars.

'(2) If you believe from the evidence in this case that the deceased were attempting to make an illegal arrest of the defendant, and that the defendant, in resisting such illegal arrest, either by himself or in conjunction with his companions, killed the deceased, one or both, then the attempt to illegally arrest the defendant would be such a provocation as would reduce the offense to manslaughter, though the killing was done with a deadly weapon.'

This was refused because the court had already fully instructed upon the subject of manslaughter, and by reference to the record it appears that the charge, as given, which defined 'manslaughter' to be 'the willful and unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought,' was more accurate than the instruction asked for, which omitted the element of the killing being without any malice either express or implied. After what the court had said, and in the form presented, we think this instruction was properly refused.

The remaining point to be considered is covered by several assignments, which charge error in the court below in admitting testimony of subsequent declarations or statements of one party tending to show that there was a conspiracy to commit murder, and in charging the jury on that subject.

It appears in the evidence that, while on their mission to find Craig, Wacoo Hampton said to Roach and the plaintiff in error that he intended to kill Brown Hitchcock, the husband of Mrs. Annie Hitchcock, with whom she had quarreled on account of the suit for divorce which her husband was prosecuting. It was claimed on the part of the government that this statement of Wacoo Hampton showed a conspiracy to commit an unlawful act, and while engaged in this unlawful enterprise the murder by Poorboy and Whitehead was perpetrated. Roach, who was wounded on the night of the murder, and was taken to the house of Mrs. Hitchcock, remained there all night. On the following morning, Sullivan, a witness for the government, and his stepson, were riding by the house of Mrs. Hitchcock, and saw her on the porch. He thought she called to him, and he stopped his horse, but she told him not to come in. She said she wanted his stepson. The young man went into the house, and remained there four or five minutes.

In offering this evidence, the district attorney said that he proposed...

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