Columbus Winchester Motes v. United States

Decision Date23 April 1900
Docket NumberNo. 257,257
Citation178 U.S. 458,44 L.Ed. 1150,20 S.Ct. 993
PartiesCOLUMBUS WINCHESTER MOTES, alias Chess Motes, et al., Plffs. in Err. , v. UNITED STATES. Subimitted
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Lee Cowart for plaintiffs in error.

Assistant Attorney General Boyd for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice Harlan delivered the opinion of the court:

Columbus Winchester Motes, alias Chess Motes, Walter W. Motes, William Robert Taylor, Jasper Robinson, John Littlejohn, and Mark Grant Blankenship, were indicted in the circuit court of the United States for the southern division of the northern district of Alabama under §§ 5508 and 5509 of the Revised Statutes of the United States.

Those sections are as follows:

'§ 5508. If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or if two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured, they shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars and imprisoned not more than ten years; and shall, moreover, be thereafter ineligible to any office or place of honor, profit, or trust created by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

'§ 5509. If, in the act of violating any provision in either of the two preceding sections, any other felony or misdemeanor be committed, the offender shall be punished for the same with such punishment as is attached to such felony or misdemeanor by the laws of the state in which the offense is committed.'

The first count of the indictment charged in substance that on the 14th day of March, 1898, and within the jurisdiction of the court, the persons above named conspired to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate one W. A. Thompson, a citizen of the United States, in the free exercise and enjoyment of a right and privilege secured to him by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and because of his having exercised the same, in that he had about the 2d day of October, 1897, informed one Robert A. Moseley, United States commissioner for the northern district of Alabama, that Bob Taylor, Chess Motes, Ben Morris, Jasper Robinson, and Walter Motes had, about the months of July, August, September, October, November, and December 1895, violated the internal revenue laws of the United States by unlawfully carrying on the business of distillers without having given bond, as required by law, and having in their possession and custody and under their control a still and distilling apparatus set up without having the same registered. It was also charged that in furtherance of the conspiracy so formed, and to effect the object thereof, the accused 'did on, to wit, about the 14th day of March eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, go upon the highway and did then and there, in the county of Talladega, in the state of Alabama, in the southern division of the northern district of Alabama, and within the jurisdiction of said court, unlawfully, wilfully, premeditatedly, deliberately, and with malice aforethought kill and murder the said W. A. Thompson by shooting him with a gun or guns, because he, the said W. A. Thompson, had reported to the said Robert A. Moseley, United States commissioner as aforesaid, said violation of the internal revenue laws of the United States by the said Bob Taylor, Chess Motes, Ben Morris, Jasper Robinson, and Walter Motes, as aforesaid, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the United States of America.'

The third count differed from the first one only in charging a conspiracy, formed by the same persons, to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate Thompson because of his having, about March 8th, 1898, informed a deputy collector of internal revenue that Mark Grant Blankenship had, about the above date, carried on the business of distiller in violation of law; also, that to effect the object of that conspiracy, and because of Thompson having given such information to the deputy collector of internal revenue, the accused had unlawfully, wilfully, premeditatedly, deliberately, and with malice aforethought, killed and murdered him.

There are seven counts in the indictment, but the first and third are sufficient to show the nature of the charges against the accused, and to bring out the questions disposed of by this opiio n.

It is recited in the bill of exceptions that Taylor pleaded guilty, but the transcript does not contain any entry of record showing such to be the fact.

The jury found the 'defendants Walter W. Motes, Columbus W. Motes, Jasper Robinson, John Littlejohn, and Mark Grant Blankenship guilty as charged in the indictment,' and in their verdict asked 'the mercy of the court for the four defendants, Walter W. Motes, Jasper Robinson, John Littlejohn, Mark Blankenship, and especially for John Littlejohn and Jasper Robinson.'

Motions in arrest of judgment and for new trial were overruled, and judgment was entered upon the verdict, sentencing the defendants other than Taylor to imprisonment in the penitentiary for life.

We have seen that by § 5508 of the Revised Statutes it is made an offense against the United States for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States,—the punishment prescribed being a fine of not more than $5,000, imprisonment not more than ten years, and ineligibility to any office or place of honor, profit, or trust created by the Constitution or laws of the United States. And by § 5509 it is provided that if in committing the above offense any other felony or misdemeanor be committed, the offender shall suffer such punishment as is attached to such felony or misdemeanor by the laws of the state in which the offense is committed.

No question has been made—indeed none could successfully be made—as to the constitutionality of these statutory provisions. Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U. S. 651, 28 L. ed. 274, 4 Sup. Ct. Rep. 152; United States v. Waddell, 112 U. S. 76, 28 L. ed. 673, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 35. Referring to those provisions and to the clause of the Constitution giving Congress authority to pass all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers specifically granted to it, and all other powers vested in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof, this court has said: 'In the exercise of this general power of legislation, Congress may use any means appearing to it most eligible and appropriate, which are adapted to the end to be accomplished, and are consistent with the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.' Logan v. United States, 144 U. S. 263, 283, 36 L. ed. 429, 435, 12 Sup. Ct. Rep. 617, and authorities there cited. It was the right and privilege of Thompson, in return for the protection he enjoyed under the Constitution and laws of the United States, to aid in the execution of the laws of his country by giving information to the proper authorities of violations of those laws. That right and privilege may properly be said to be secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States. And it was competent for Congress to declare a conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate a citizen because of the exercise by him of such right or privilege to be an offense against the United States.

The reference in the above sections to the laws of the state in which the offense was committed makes it necessary to ascertain from the laws of Alabama what punishment could be inflicted for the crime that was committed while the conspiracy referred to in § 5508 was being carried into execution.

By the Code of Alabama it is provided: '§ 4854. Every homicide, perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of wilful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing; or committed in the perpetration of, or the attempt to perpetrate, any arson, rape, robbery, or burglary; or perpetrated from a premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the death of any human being other than him who is killed; or perpetrated by any act greatly dangerous to the lives of others, and evidencing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any preconceived purpose to deprivean y particular person of life,—is murder in the first degree; and every other homicide committed under such circumstances as would have constituted murder at common law is murder in the second degree.' '§ 4857. When the jury find the defendant guilty under an indictment for murder, they must ascertain, by their verdict, whether it is murder in the first or second degree; but if the defendant on arraignment confesses his guilt, the court must proceed to determine the degree of the crime, by the verdict of a jury, upon an examination of the testimony, and pass sentence accordingly. § 4858. Any person who is guilty of murder in the first degree must, on conviction, suffer death or imprisonment in the penitentiary for life, at the discretion of the jury; and any person who is guilty of murder in the second degree must, on conviction, be imprisoned in the penitentiary for not less than ten years, at the discretion of the jury.' Ala. Code 1896, vol. 2, Criminal.

Taking these statutory provisions together, the question arises whether the court below had authority, in view of the verdict of the jury,—'guilty as charged in the indictment,'—to sentence the accused to imprisonment in the penitentiary for life. The contention of the accused is that it was for the jury to indicate by their verdict the punishment to be imposed by the court, and that the court was without power to act until the jury indicated...

To continue reading

Request your trial
242 cases
  • People v. Ashford
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • September 16, 1968
    ...a witness to leave the jurisdiction before he could be called to give his testimony personally. (Cf. Motes v. United States (1900) 178 U.S. 458, 471--474, 20 S.Ct. 993, 44 L.Ed. 1150.) The prosecution relied upon the provisions of section 686 of the Penal Code which read as follows: 'In a c......
  • People v. Spencer
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • March 14, 1967
    ...defendant's extrajudicial statement probably played little if any role in the jury's deliberation. (See Motes v. United States (1900) 178 U.S. 458, 475--476, 20 S.Ct. 993, 44 L.Ed. 1150; People v. Combes (1961) 56 Cal.2d 135, 148, 14 Cal.Rptr. 4, 363 P.2d 4; cf. People v. Jacobson (1965) 63......
  • United States v. Tariq
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • August 25, 1981
    ...615 F.2d at 882. But cf. Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 23 L.Ed.2d 284 (1969); Motes v. United States, 178 U.S. 458, 20 S.Ct. 993, 44 L.Ed. 1150 (1900) (confrontation clause violation is harmless if evidence of guilt is The Fourth Circuit has not ruled on the precise......
  • Snyder v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • January 8, 1934
    ...Dowdell v. United States, supra. Cf. Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275, 282, 17 S.Ct. 326, 41 L.Ed. 715; Motes v. United States, 178 U.S. 458, 472, 473, 20 S.Ct. 993, 44 L.Ed. 1150. The exceptions are not even static, but may be enlarged from time to time if there is no material departure ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 books & journal articles
  • FEDERAL RULES OF EVIDENCE
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Evidence in Colorado - A Practical Guide (CBA) Subject Index
    • Invalid date
    ...testimony of unavailable witnesses. Mattox v. United States, 156 U.S. 237, 15 S.Ct. 337, 39 L.Ed. 409 (1895); Motes v. United States, 178 U.S. 458, 20 S.Ct. 993, 44 L.Ed. 1150 (1900); Delaney v. United States, 263 U.S. 586, 44 S.Ct. 206, 68 L.Ed. 462 (1924). Beginning with Snyder v. Massach......
  • Conditional Rules in Criminal Procedure: Alice in Wonderland Meets the Constitution
    • United States
    • Georgia State University College of Law Georgia State Law Reviews No. 26-2, December 2009
    • Invalid date
    ...regard to technical errors, defects, or exceptions which do not affect the substantial rights of the parties." 29. Motes v. United States, 178 U.S. 458 (1900). 30. Id. at 471-72. 31. Id. at 474-75. 2010] CONDITIONAL RULES IN CRIMINAL PROCEDURE 429 the jury had disregarded [the witness's] st......
  • Dial-in testimony.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 150 No. 4, April 2002
    • April 1, 2002
    ...against him." Id. at 406-07 (citing Mattox, 156 U.S. at 242; Dowdell v. United States, 221 U.S. 325, 330 (1911); Motes v. United States, 178 U.S. 458, 474 (1900); and Kirby v. United States, 174 U.S. 47, 55 (1899)). None of these cases mentioned the word hearsay. Two cases presented as seco......
  • Nebraska Plea-based Convictions Practice: a Primer and Commentary
    • United States
    • University of Nebraska - Lincoln Nebraska Law Review No. 79, 2021
    • Invalid date
    ...also has its extrajudicial and pretrial applications. See, e.g.,Greene v. McElroy, 360 U.S. 474, 496 (1959); Motes v. United States, 178 U.S. 458 (1900); Kirby v. United States, 174 U.S. 47 (1899). 181. SeeHerring v. New York, 422 U.S. 853 (1975)(allowing trial judges to place rea sonable t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT