Chester Jordan v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation32 S.Ct. 651,225 U.S. 167,56 L.Ed. 1038
Docket NumberNo. 519,519
Decision Date27 May 1912

Messrs. Arthur Thad Smith, Harvey H. Pratt, Jeremiah S. Sullivan, and Charles W. Bartlett for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 167-170 intentionally omitted] Mr. James M. Swift, Attorney General of Massachusetts, and Mr. Walter A. Powers, Assistant Attorney General, for defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 170-172 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice Lurton delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff in error was convicted of the crime of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death, and the judgment was affirmed by the supreme judicial court of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. The case is brought here upon a single question; namely, that the plaintiff in error has been denied due process of law under the 14th Amendment, because he was tried by a jury which included one Willis A. White, concerning whose sanity it is said there existed reasonable doubt.

The jury had been selected in the usual way, and White had been accepted without knowledge by the state or the defendant of any question concerning his mental fitness. It was impaneled on April 20, 1909. On May 4 it was charged, and on the same day returned a verdict. On May 10, a motion for a new trial was made, based upon the suggestion by counsel for the prisoner that the juror White, during the hearing and at the time the verdict was agreed upon, was insane and incompetent to participate as a juror. The motion was heard by two of the trial justices of the superior court, and much oral evidence bearing upon the sanity of the juror was introduced, all of which has been preserved by a bill of exceptions. At the conclusion of the evidence the prisoner presented no less than seventy-two requests for rulings and findings, made part of the record. The court found and ruled as follows:

'We find by a fair preponderance of all the evidence as a fact that the juror Willis A. White was of sufficient mental capacity during the entire trial of Chester S. Jordan until after the verdict was returned, to intelligently consider the evidence, appreciate the arguments of counsel, the rulings of law, the charge of the court, and to arrive at a rational conclusion, and therefore we deny the motion.

'Having found the above fact, we deem it unnecessary to consider the requests for rulings.' [207 Mass. 274, 93 N. E. 809.]

The numerous requests for rulings and special findings all relate to the burden of proof and the rules for the weighing of evidence upon the issues presented.

The supreme judicial court, after a consideration of the evidence upon which this finding was based, ruled that it could not be said that there was not evidence warranting the conclusion of the trial judges.

We shall assume that both the trial court and the supreme judicial court have sustained the verdict of the jury because they were of opinion that it was not essential that the sanity of the juror under the circumstances of this case should be established by more than a fair preponderance of the evidence. The insistence is that thereby the constitutional guaranty of due process of Iaw, found in the 14th Amendment, has been violated.

That the procedure in this case was in conformity with the Constitution and law of Massachusetts is determined by the judgment and opinion of the supreme judicial court.

Subject to the requirement of due process of law, the states are under no restriction as to their method of procedure in the administration of public justice. That the court had jurisdiction and that there was a full hearing upon the issue made by the suggestion of the insanity of the juror is not questioned. 'Subject to these two fundamental conditions, which seem to be universally prescribed in all systems of law, . . . this court has, up to this time, sustained all state laws, statutory or judicially declared, regulating procedure, evidence, and methods of trial, and held them to be consistent with due process of law.' Twining v. New Jersey, 211 U. S. 78, 111, 53 L. ed. 77, 111, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 14.

In Allen v. Georgia, 166 U. S. 138, 140 41 L. ed. 949, 950, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 525, it is said:

'Without attempting to define exactly in what due process of law consists, it is sufficient to say that, if the supreme court of a state has acted in consonance with the constitutional laws of a state and its own procedure, it could only be in very exceptional circumstances that this court would feel justified in saying that there had been a failure of due legal process. We might ourselves have pursued a different course in this case, but that is not the test. The plaintiff in error must have been deprived of one of those fundamental rights, the observance of which is indispensable to the liberty of the citizen, to justify our interference.'

In Felts v. Murphy, 201 U. S. 123, 50 L. ed. 689, 26 Sup. Ct. Rep. 366, it appeared that a deaf person was tried and convicted of murder. It was claimed that he had been denied due process of law because he had not heard a word of the evidence, and that the evidence should have been repeated to him through an ear trumpet, although it was not clear that he could have been made to understand by that means. After saying that the state court had jurisdiction of the person and of the subjectmatter, this court said:

'The appellant was not deprived of his liberty without due process of law by the manner in which he was tried, so as to violate the provisions of the 14th Amendment to...

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  • Peters v. Kiff 8212 5078
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 22 Junio 1972
    ...... due process, be subjected to trial by an insane juror, Jordan v. Massachusetts, 225 U.S. 167, 176, 32 S.Ct. 651, 652, 56 L.Ed. 1038. ......
  • Snyder v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 8 Enero 1934
    ...890. 7 Walker v. Sauvinet, 92 U.S. 90, 23 L.Ed. 678; Maxwell v. Dow, 176 U.S. 581, 20 S.Ct. 448, 44 L.Ed. 597; Jordan v. Massachusetts, 225 U.S. 167, 32 S.Ct. 651, 56 L.Ed. 1038. 8 Brown v. New Jersey, 175 U.S. 172, 20 S.Ct. 77, 44 L.Ed. 119; Howard v. Kentucky, 200 U.S. 164, 26 S.Ct. 189, ......
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Baldwin L. Works, 7639.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 6 Mayo 1942
    ...F.2d 905. 9 Some state constitutions have express provisions, King v. Grace, 293 Mass. 244, 200 N.E. 346. 10 Jordan v. Massachusetts, 225 U.S. 167, 32 S.Ct. 651, 56 L.Ed. 1038; Tumey v. Ohio, 273 U.S. 510, 47 S.Ct. 437, 71 L.Ed. 749. 50 A.L.R. 11 Jordan v. Massachusetts, 225 U.S. 167, 176, ......
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    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 18 Julio 1973
    ...102 (1941)); Illinois: Mackin v. People, 115 Ill. 312, 3 N.E. 222 (1885); Indiana: Douthitt v. State, 144 Ind. 397, 42 N.E. 907 (1896); Massachusetts: Commonwealth v. Jordan, 207 Mass. 259, 93 N.E. 809 (1911), aff'd. Jordan v. Massachusetts, 225 U.S. 167, 32 S.Ct. 651, 56 L.Ed. 1038 (1912);......
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1 books & journal articles
  • The Supreme Court as Protector of Civil Rights: Criminal Justice
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The No. 275-1, May 1951
    • 1 Mayo 1951
    ...North Carolina, 333 U. S. 851 (1948) ; Murphy, JJ., dissenting. 62 Cassell v. Texas, 339 U. S. 282 (1950)— Jordan v. Massachusetts, 225 U. S. 167, 176 Jackson, J., dissenting, Douglas, J., not partic- 63 See Glasser v. United States, 315 U. S. ipating. But see Akins v. Texas, 325 U. S......

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