Graham v. Weeks

Decision Date02 March 1891
Citation138 U.S. 461,34 L.Ed. 1051,11 S.Ct. 363
PartiesGRAHAM v. WEEKS, Warden of the Wisconsin State-Prison
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Rublee A. Cole, for plaintiff in error.

R. M. La Follette, for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice FIELD, after stating the facts as above, delivered the opinion of the court.

It is undoubtedly the general rule that a judgment rendered by a court in a criminal case must conform strictly to the statute, and that any variation from its provisions, either in the character or the extent of punishment inflicted, renders the judgment absolutely void; but it seems that under the law of Wisconsin a judgment in a criminal case, which merely exceeds in the time of punishment prescribed by the sentence that which is authorized by law, is not absolutely void, but only erroneous, and that the error must be corrected on appeal, and cannot be corrected by a writ of habeas corpus. It would seem that a distinction is there made between those cases in which the judgment is irregular, as being in excess of the time prescribed, and those in which it is void, as changing the nature of the punishment from that authorized by the law; and that in the former class, until the time is reached which is prescribed by statute as the limit of the power of the court to punish the prisoner, he has no remedy by habeas corpus. If such be the law of the state, as would appear by this decision and the argument of counsel, we do not see that we have any right to interfere. That the prisoner should not have been sentenced for any time in excess of 10 years is very evident. When the 10 years have expired it is probable the court will order the prisoner's discharge, but until then he has no right to ask the annulment of the entire judgment. Such being the ruling of the state court, and there being nothing in it repugnant to any principle of natural justice, we think that the reason given for a refusal of the writ of habeas corpus in the court below at the present time was a sound one. Nor is the doctrine of the Wisconsin court peculiar to the courts of that state. In New York it has been held that a judgment in a criminal case, which in the punishment it imposed exceeded that prescribed by statute, was not void except for the excess, where such excess could be omitted in the execution of the judgment. Thus in People v. Baker, 89 N. Y. 460, 467, the relator was tried and convicted of a crime for which he was sentenced to be imprisoned in the penitentiary for one year, and to pay a...

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53 cases
  • Paul Weems v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • May 2, 1910
    ...And it is provided in article 56 that the penalty of cadena temporal shall include the accessory penalties. In Re Graham, 138 U. S. 461, 34 L. ed. 1051, 11 Sup. Ct. Rep. 363, it was recognized to be 'the general rule that a judgment rendered by a court in a criminal case must conform strict......
  • Sorenson v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • February 13, 1909
    ... ... ' ... Harman v. United States (C.C.) 50 F. 921; Ex parte ... Karstendick, 93 U.S. 396, 23 L.Ed. 889; In re ... Graham, 138 U.S. 461, 11 Sup.Ct. 363, 34 L.Ed. 1051; Ex ... parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163, 21 L ... Ed ... [168 F. 788] ... re Mills, 135 U.S ... This ... was after the defendant's arrest, and when he was in ... jail, nearly three weeks subsequent to the theft. The ... officers who made the search of the house and took the watch ... returned it to Mrs. Sorenson the next morning ... ...
  • State ex rel. Boner v. Boles
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • July 17, 1964
    ...217 U.S. 349, 30 S.Ct. 544, 54 L.Ed. 793, 19 Ann.Cas. 705; In re Bonner, 151 U.S. 242, 14 S.Ct. 323, 38 L.Ed. 149; In re Graham, 138 U.S. 461, 11 S.Ct. 363, 34 L.Ed. 1051; In re Mills, 135 U.S. 263, 10 S.Ct. 762, 34 L.Ed. 107; Mathes v. United States, 9th cir., 254 F.2d 938; DeBenque v. Uni......
  • Edwards v. Vannoy
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • May 17, 2021
    ...court was powerless to revisit those proceedings unless the state court had acted without jurisdiction. E.g., In re Graham , 138 U.S. 461, 462, 11 S.Ct. 363, 34 L.Ed. 1051 (1891) ; Tinsley v. Anderson , 171 U.S. 101, 104–106, 18 S.Ct. 805, 43 L.Ed. 91 (1898) ; Markuson v. Boucher , 175 U.S.......
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