Chatwin v. United States Zitting v. Same Christensen v. Same 33, Nos. 31

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMURPHY
Citation90 L.Ed. 198,326 U.S. 455,66 S.Ct. 233
Decision Date02 January 1946
Docket NumberNos. 31
PartiesCHATWIN v. UNITED STATES. ZITTING v. SAME. CHRISTENSEN v. SAME. to 33

326 U.S. 455
66 S.Ct. 233
90 L.Ed. 198
CHATWIN

v.

UNITED STATES. ZITTING v. SAME. CHRISTENSEN v. SAME.

Nos. 31 to 33.
Argued Oct. 10, 1945.
Decided Jan. 2, 1946.

Page 456

Mr. Claude T. Barnes, of Salt Lake City, Utah, for petitioners.

Mr. Harold Judson, Asst. Sol. Gen., of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Federal Kidnapping Act1 punishes any one who knowingly transports or aids in transporting in interstate or foreign commerce 'any person who shall have been un-

Page 457

lawfully seized, confined, inveigled, decoyed, kidnapped, abducted, or carried away by any means whatsoever and held for ransom or reward or otherwise, except, in the case of a minor, by a parent thereof.' The sole issue confronting us in these cases is whether the stipulated facts support the convictions of the three petitioners under this Act, the indictment having charged that they unlawfully inveigled, decoyed and carried away a minor child of the age of 15, held her for a stated period, and transported her from Utah to Arizona with knowledge that she had been so inveigled and held. We are not called upon to determine or characterize the morality of their actions. Nor are we concerned here with their liability under any other statute, federal or state.

Petitioners are members of the Fundamentalist cult of the Mormon faith, a cult that sanctions plural or 'celestial' marriages. In August, 1940, petitioner Chatwin, who was then a 68-year old widower, employed one Dorothy Wyler as a house keeper in his home in Santaquin, Utah. This girl was nearly 15 years old at this time although the stipulation indicates that she had only a mental age of 7.2 Her employment by Chatwin was approved by her parents. While residing at Chatwin's home, the girl was continually taught by Chatwin and one Lulu Cook, who also resided there, that plural marriage was essential to her salvation. Chatwin also told her that it was her grandmother's desire that he should take her in celestial marriage and that such a marriage was in conformity with the true principles of the original Mormon Church. As a result of these teachings, the girl was converted to the principle of celestial marriage and entered into a cult marriage with Chatwin

Page 458

on December 19, 1940. Thereafter she became pregnant, which fact was discovered by her parents on July 24, 1941. The parents then informed the juvenile authorities of the State of Utah of the situation and they took the girl into custody as a delinquent on August 4, 1941, making her a ward of the juvenile court.

On August 10, 1941, the girl accompanied a juvenile probation officer to a motion picture show at Provo, Utah. The officer left the girl at the show and returned later to all for her. The girl asked to be allowed to stay on for a short time and the officer consented. Thereafter, and prior to the second return of the officer, the girl 'left the picture show and went out onto the street in Provo.' There she met two married daughters of Chatwin who gave her sufficient money to go from Provo to Salt Lake City. Shortly after arriving there she was taken to the home of petitioners Zitting and Christensen. They, together with Chatwin, convinced her that she should abide, as they put it, 'by the law of God rather than the law of man' and that she was perfectly justified in running away from the juvenile court in order to live with Chatwin. They further convinced her that she should go with them to Mexico to be married legally to Chatwin and then remain in hiding until she had reached her majority under Utah law. Thereafter, on October 6, 1941, the three petitioners transported the girl in Zitting's automobile from Salt Lake City of Juarez, Mexico, where she went through a civil marriage ceremony with Chatwin on October 14. She was then brought back to Utah and thence to Short Creek, Arizona. There she lived in hiding with Chatwin under assumed names until discovered by federal authorities over two years later, December 9, 1943. While in Short Creek she gave birth to two children by Chatwin. The transportation of the girl from Provo to Salt Lake City, thence to Juarez, Mexico, and finally to Short Creek was without the consent and against the wishes of her

Page 459

parents and without authority from the juvenile court officials. 3

Having waived jury trials, the three petitioners were found guilty as charged and were given jail sentences. United States v. Cleveland, D.C., 56 F.Supp. 890. The court below affirmed the convictions. 10 Cir., 146 F.2d 730. We granted certiorari, 324 U.S. 835, 65 S.Ct. 858, 859, 860, because of our doubts as to the correctness of the judgment that the petitioners were guilty under the Federal Kidnapping Act on the basis of the foregoing facts.

The Act by its own terms contemplates that the kidnapped victim shall have been (1) 'unlawfully seized, confined, inveigled, decoyed, kidnapped, abducted, or carried away by any means whatsoever' and (2) 'held for ransom or reward or otherwise.' The Government contends that both elements appear from the stipulated facts in this case. The petitioners, it is argued, unlawfully 'inveigled' or 'decoyed' the girl away from the custody of her parents and the juvenile court authorities, the girl being 'incapable of understanding the full significance of petitioners' importunities' because of her tender years and extremely low mentality. It is claimed, moreover, that the girl was 'held' during the two-month period from August 10 to October 6, 1941, prior to the legal marriage, for the purpose of enabling Chatwin to cohabit with her and that this purpose, being of 'benefit to the transgressor,' is within the statutory term 'or otherwise' as defined in Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 128, 56 S.Ct. 395, 397, 80 L.Ed. 522.

We are unable to approve the Government's contention. The agreed statement that the girl 'left the picture show and went out onto the street in Provo' without any apparent motivating actions by the petitioners casts serious doubts on the claim that they 'inveigled' or 'decoyed' her

Page 460

away from the custody of the juvenile court authorities. But we do not pause to pursue this matter for it is obvious that there has been a complete lack of competent...

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143 practice notes
  • United States v. Morgan, Nos. 12–1408
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • April 9, 2014
    ...interstate kidnapping in response to the widely publicized abduction of aviator Charles Lindbergh's son. See Chatwin v. United States, 326 U.S. 455, 462–63, 66 S.Ct. 233, 90 L.Ed. 198 (1946). A 2006 amendment expanded the crime to include intrastate activity when an “offender ... uses ... a......
  • Glenn v. United States, No. 16031.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • March 30, 1955
    ...as a whole." See: Ozawa v. United States, 1922, 260 U.S. 178, 194, 43 S.Ct. 65, 67, 67 L.Ed. 199; Chatwin v. United States, 1946, 326 U.S. 455, 464, 66 S.Ct. 233, 90 L.Ed. 198, or whether a certain word, phrase or clause has been employed with a more limited or otherwise different meaning "......
  • United States v. Mobley, No. 19-3122
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 21, 2020
    ...ch. 971 F.3d 1200 271, 47 Stat. 326 (codified at 18 U.S.C. § 408a) (current version at 18 U.S.C. § 1201 ); Chatwin v. United States , 326 U.S. 455, 463, 66 S.Ct. 233, 90 L.Ed. 198 (1946). As the Supreme Court observed:Kidnaping by that time had become an epidemic in the United States. Ruthl......
  • United States v. Kozminski, No. 86-2000
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 29, 1988
    ...threat of legal action. See ante, at 954-959. The statute applies equally to "physical or mental restraint," cf. Chatwin v. United States, 326 U.S. 455, 460, 66 S.Ct. 233, 235, 90 L.Ed. 198 (1946), and I would not distinguish between the two kinds of compulsion. However, unlike Justice BREN......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
142 cases
  • United States v. Morgan, Nos. 12–1408
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • April 9, 2014
    ...interstate kidnapping in response to the widely publicized abduction of aviator Charles Lindbergh's son. See Chatwin v. United States, 326 U.S. 455, 462–63, 66 S.Ct. 233, 90 L.Ed. 198 (1946). A 2006 amendment expanded the crime to include intrastate activity when an “offender ... uses ... a......
  • Glenn v. United States, No. 16031.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • March 30, 1955
    ...as a whole." See: Ozawa v. United States, 1922, 260 U.S. 178, 194, 43 S.Ct. 65, 67, 67 L.Ed. 199; Chatwin v. United States, 1946, 326 U.S. 455, 464, 66 S.Ct. 233, 90 L.Ed. 198, or whether a certain word, phrase or clause has been employed with a more limited or otherwise different meaning "......
  • United States v. Mobley, No. 19-3122
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 21, 2020
    ...ch. 971 F.3d 1200 271, 47 Stat. 326 (codified at 18 U.S.C. § 408a) (current version at 18 U.S.C. § 1201 ); Chatwin v. United States , 326 U.S. 455, 463, 66 S.Ct. 233, 90 L.Ed. 198 (1946). As the Supreme Court observed:Kidnaping by that time had become an epidemic in the United States. Ruthl......
  • United States v. Kozminski, No. 86-2000
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 29, 1988
    ...threat of legal action. See ante, at 954-959. The statute applies equally to "physical or mental restraint," cf. Chatwin v. United States, 326 U.S. 455, 460, 66 S.Ct. 233, 235, 90 L.Ed. 198 (1946), and I would not distinguish between the two kinds of compulsion. However, unlike Justice BREN......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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