Brown v. Urquhart

Citation139 F. 846
PartiesBROWN v. URQUHART, Sheriff.
Decision Date08 August 1905
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)

Maurice A. Langhorne, C. H. Forney, and John M. Ponder, for petitioner.

E. C McDonald, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Jr. R. Buxton, Pros. Atty for respondent.

HANFORD District Judge.

The petitioner was tried before the superior court of the state of Washington for Lewis county and a jury upon an information charging him with the crime of murder and his plea of not guilty, resulting in a verdict of acquittal on the ground of insanity, and thereafter, without any further inquiry or proceedings, the superior court rendered the following decision and judgment:

'The said superior court, by reason of said verdict and all the evidence and proceedings in the trial and demeanor of defendant, finds that the discharge or going at large of Thomas Brown would be and is considered by the court as manifestly dangerous to the peace and safety of the community. The court therefore orders that said Thomas Brown be, and he is hereby, committed to the county jail of said Lewis county at Chehalis, Washington, until the further order of this court.'

The petitioner, having been incarcerated in the jail of Lewis county pursuant to said judgment, applied to the Supreme Court of the state for discharge from imprisonment by a writ of habeas corpus, and relief was refused, not on the ground of any informality in the application, but for the reason that in the judgment of the court he was lawfully committed and held, and his continued imprisonment was not a deprivation of liberty without due process of law or of any right guarantied by the Constitution of the United States the Constitution of the state of Washington, or the law of the land.

The verdict is a conclusive determination of the only question submitted to the jury, viz., whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the crime charged in the information against him; and, being purged of criminality, the power of the court in which he was tried to imprison him depended entirely upon facts and conditions existing subsequent to the acquittal, which necessarily could not have been comprehended in the verdict. Applications to the federal courts by convicts for writs of habeas corpus which are obstructive of judicial proceedings under state laws are general viewed with disfavor, and denied, even when supported by averments of deprivation of rights guarantied by the national Constitution or laws, if there is a way open for the correction of errors to their prejudice by a review of the proceedings in any court having appellate jurisdiction. It is now settled that in such cases the federal courts are required to exercise discretion, and may with propriety leave an applicant who has been convicted of a heinous crime to pursue his remedy by a writ of error or appeal. In re Friedrich (C.C.) 51 F. 747; In re Frederich, 149 U.S. 70, 13 Sup.Ct. 793, 37 L.Ed. 653. The federal courts, however, are charged with responsibility in the protection of individual rights according to the principles of Magna Charta, which have been adopted as fundamental in our government, and incorporated into the national Constitution, and it is a part of the business of the federal courts to see that no one can be criminally punished in this country except according to a valid law prescribed by a sovereign authority. Rev. St. U.S. Secs. 751-753 (U.S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 592; Medley's Case, 134 U.S. 160, 10 Sup.Ct. 384, 33 L.Ed. 835; Minnesota v. Barber, 136 U.S. 313, 10 Sup.Ct. 862, 34 L.Ed. 455; 15 Am.& Eng.Encyc.of Law (2d Ed.) 138, 139; In re Davenport (C.C.) 102 F. 540.

If the imprisonment of the petitioner is in fact a deprivation of his liberty without due process of law, in violation of the national Constitution, an adjudication adverse to his contention by the Supreme Court of the state is not conclusive upon the federal courts, for the constitutional prohibition of the use of despotic power to deprive any person of liberty without due process of law applies to the state, and restrains all departments of the state government, including the judiciary, and forbids compliance with judicial process issued in disregard of the essential requirements of the orderly procedure recognized in this country of constituting due process of law. Therefore I hold that this court has jurisdiction to entertain the petition, and that the previous decision of the questions presented here by the Supreme Court of the state is not res adjudicata. Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 6 Sup.Ct. 1064, 30 L.Ed. 220. I hold also that, as the petitioner has been acquitted of the only criminal charge preferred against him, and to which he has been accorded an opportunity to plead, this court, in the exercise of discretion, should grant his application for a writ of habeas corpus, rather than leave him in confinement while seeking relief by the more difficult method of an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States from the judgment of the Supreme Court of the State, which denied the rights which he claimed under the Constitution of the United States.

It is conceded that the only color of authority for the order of the superior court for the imprisonment of the petitioner in the jail of Lewis county is a section of the Code of this...

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5 cases
  • Lynch v. Overholser, 159
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 21, 1962
    ...West Boylston, 136 Mass. 489; Yankulov v. Bushong, 80 Ohio App. 497, 77 N.E.2d 88. Similar procedures were struck down in Brown v. Urquhart, 139 F. 846 (C.C.W.D.Wash.); In re Boyett, 136 N.C. 415, 48 S.E. 789, 67 L.R.A. 972; and Underwood v. People, 32 Mich. 1. Brown v. Urquhart required a ......
  • Ex parte Roberts
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Virginia
    • July 3, 1945
    ...discharged. Petitioner then made application to a Circuit Court of the United States which, after a hearing, discharged him from custody. 139 F. 846. On appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States the action of the lower federal court was reversed. The opinion by Mr. Justice Harlan poi......
  • State v. Blubaugh, 41677--78
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • December 9, 1971
    ...State ex rel. Thompson v. Snell, 46 Wash. 327, 89 P. 931 (1907); State v. Saffron, 146 Wash. 202, 262 P. 970 (1927); Brown v. Urquhart, 139 F. 846 (C.C.W.D.Wash.1905). Thus, in Washington regardless of the procedure or burden of proof for the discharge of those civilly committed, a differen......
  • Mooney v. Holohan
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of California
    • June 27, 1934
    ...under which he was imprisoned, as construed by the highest court of the state, was unconstitutional and void. The Circuit Court (Brown v. Urquhart, 139 F. 846) adopted that view and discharged the appellee, but the Supreme Court reversed the judgment. "It is the settled doctrine of this cou......
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