Fred Lee Rice v. John Ames

Citation21 S.Ct. 406,45 L.Ed. 577,180 U.S. 371
Decision Date25 February 1901
Docket NumberNo. 420,420
PartiesFRED LEE RICE et al., Appts. , v. JOHN C. AMES
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

This was an appeal by Fred Lee Rice, Frank Rutledge, and Thomas Jones from an order of the district court for the northern district of Illinois, denying their application for a discharge upon a writ of habeas corpus, the object of which writ was to test the validity of certain proceedings against the appellants, taken before a commissioner for that district, specially authorized to take jurisdiction of proceedings for the extradition of persons charged with crimes, under treaties with foreign governments.

The proceedings before the commissioner are set forth in a bill of exceptions signed by the district judge.

The first warrant for the arrest of the appellants was issued June 2, 1900, upon complaint made upon information and belief, by 'a police officer of the city of Chicago,' and an affidavit of a police detective of the city of Toronto, Canada, also upon information and belief, charging defendants with sundry crimes committed both at Aurora and at Toronto, in the province of Ontario. Pursuant to this warrant appellants were taken by the respondent, Ames, as United States marshal, out of the custody of the city police, by whom they had been arrested the day before, and brought before the commissioner. Proceedings were adjourned until June 4, when the case was dismissed, and a new warrant issued upon the complaint of Albert Cuddy, police detective of the city of Toronto, also upon information and belief. Defendants moved to quash this complaint and warrant by reason of the fact that the complaint was made upon information and belief, which was denied, and the proceedings adjourned until June 14. Defendants were committed for further hearing. Upon that day, it appearing that the proceedings had been taken only for the purpose of provisional apprehension and detention, the case was dismissed, and a new and final complaint made by William Greer, a government detective for the province of Ontario, duly authorized by the Attorney General of the province to act as the agent of the government in the prosecution of extradition proceedings.

This complaint contained four counts, the first of which charged the defendants, upon information and belief, with stealing from the postoffice building in the town of Aurora, a quantity of Canadian postage stamps, $55 in money, and certain certificates in mining stock. The other three counts, in which the charge was made absolutely, and not upon information and belief, charged the defendants, first, with stealing a horse, cart, and harness; second, with breaking and entering a private bank in the town of Aurora with intent to steal, and also with the larceny of certain money in the bank; and, third with breaking into a shop on Queen street, in the city of Toronto. A new warrant was issued upon this complaint, and the examination adjourned until June 25, at which time defendants were brought before the commissioner, and motion made for their discharge for want of jurisdiction and for insufficiency of the complaint. This motion being denied, the case went to a hearing upon certain documents certified by the American consul, and a large number of depositions of witnesses which were not sent up with the record. The examination was continued for several days, and finally upon July 10 the commissioner found there was probable cause to believe the defendants guilty, and ordered them to stand committed to await the action of the proper authorities.

Whereupon, and upon the same day, petitioners sued out this writ of habeas corpus from the district court; and from the order of that court denying their discharge, they took an appeal directly to this court.

Mr. Samuel H. Trude for appellants.

Mr. Lynden Evans for appellee.

Mr. Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the court:

1. Motion is made to dismiss the appeal upon the ground that there is no provision of law allowing an appeal in this class of cases. Prior to the court of appeals act of 1891, provision was made for an appeal to the circuit court in habeas corpus cases 'from the final decision of any court, justice, or judge inferior to the circuit court' (Rev. Stat. § 763); and from the final decision of such circuit court an appeal might be taken to this court. Rev. Stat. § 764, as amended March 3, 1885 (23 Stat. at L. 437, chap. 353).

The law remained in this condition until the court of appeals act of March, 1891 [26 Stat. at L. 828, chap. 517], was passed, the 5th section of which permits an appeal directly from the district court to this court 'in any case in which the constitutionality of any law of the United States, or the validity or construction of any treaty made under its authority, is drawn in question.' In this connection the appellee insists that an appeal will not lie, but that a writ of error is the proper remedy. In support of this we are cited to the case of Bucklin v. United States, 159 U. S. 680, 40 L. ed. 304, 16 Sup. Ct. Rep. 182, in which the appellant was convicted of the crime of perjury, and sought a review of the judgment against him by an appeal, which we held must be dismissed upon the ground that criminal cases were reviewable here only by writ of error. Obviously that case has no application to this, since under the prior sections of the Revised Statutes, above cited, which are taken from the act of 1842, an appeal was allowed in habeas corpus cases. The observation made in the Bucklin Case, that 'there was no purpose by that act to abolish the general distinction, at common law, between an appeal and a writ of error,' may be supplemented by saying that it was no purpose of the act of 1891 to change the forms of remedies theretofore pursued.

Re Lennon, 150 U. S. 393, 37 L. ed. 1120, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 123; Ekiu v. United States, 142 U. S. 651, 35 L. ed. 1146, 12 Sup. Ct. Rep. 336; Gonzales v. Cunningham, 164 U. S. 612, 41 L. ed. 572, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 182. As a construction of the extradition treaty with Great Britain is involved, the appeal was properly taken to this court.

2. The first assignment of error is to the effect that the commissioners issuing the warrant had no jurisdiction, because the complaint of Greer was upon information and belief, and not such as was required by the treaty, or by § 5270 of the Revised Statutes. The first two complaints, which were dismissed, as well as the first count of the complaint under which the proceedings were finally had, were obviously insufficient, since the charges were made solely upon information and belief, and no attempt was made even to set forth the sources of information or the grounds of affiant's belief. This is bad, even in extradition proceedings, which are entitled to as much liberality of construction in furtherance of the objects of the treaty as is possible in cases of a criminal nature. Nor is it saved by the fact that Greer described himself as government detective for the province of Ontario and duly authorized by the Attorney General to act as the agent of the government to prosecute extradition proceedings. Ex parte Smith, 3 McLean, 121, 135, Fed. Cas. No. 12,968; Ex parte Lane, 6 Fed. Rep. 34; Re J. L. Young Mfg. Co. [1900] 2 Ch. 753.

A citizen ought not to be deprived of his personal liberty upon an allegation which, upon being sifted, may amount to nothing more than a suspicion. While authorities upon this subject are singularly few, it is clear that a person ought not to be arrested upon a criminal charge upon less direct allegations than are necessary to authorize the arrest of a fraudulent or absconding debtor. Smith v. Luce, 14 Wend. 237; Re Bliss, 7 Hill, 187; Proctor v. Prout, 17 Mich. 473. So, too, in applications for injunctions, the rule is that the material facts must be directly averred under oath by a person having knowledge of such facts. Waddell v. Bruen, 4 Edw. Ch. 671; Armstrong v. Sanford, 7 Minn. 49, Gil. 34.

We do not wish, however, to be understood as holding that, in extradition proceedings, the complaint must be sworn to by persons having actual knowledge of the offense charged. This would defeat the whole object...

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