Harlan v. Thomas Gourin Robert Gallagher v. Thomas Gourin

Citation218 U.S. 442,2 Ann. Cas. 849,31 S.Ct. 44,54 L.Ed. 1101
Decision Date28 November 1910
Docket NumberNo. 379,No. 378,378,379
PartiesW. S. HARLAN, S. E. Huggins, and C. C. Hilton, Appts., v. THOMAS H. McGOURIN, Marshal, Appellee. ROBERT GALLAGHER et al., Appts., v. THOMAS H. McGOURIN, Marshal, Appellee
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Messrs. William W. Flournoy and J. F. Stallings for appellants.

Assistant Attorney General Harr for appellee.

Mr. Justice Day delivered the opinion of the court:

These appeals are from judgments rendered in the circuit court of the United States for the northern district of Florida, discharging a writ of habeas corpus, and remanding the prisoners to the custody of the United States marshal.

The petitioners in the original habeas corpus proceedings, appellants here, were convicted in the United States circuit court for the northern district of Florida of conspiring to hold, arrest, and return one Rudolph Lanninger to a condition of peonage, in violation of § 5440 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3676). The offense of returning to a condition of peonage is defined by § 5526 of the Revised Statutes, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3715. Petitioners were sentenced to imprisonment for different terms and to pay pecuniary fines.

The record discloses that the original cases in which appellants were convicted and sentenced were taken to the circuit court of appeals for the fifth circuit upon writs of error, and the judgments of conviction affirmed. Afterwards petitions for writs of certiorari to bring the cases to this court from the circuit court of appeals were denied in this court (214 U. S. 519, 53 L. ed. 1065, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 700). Thereafter, the prisoners, being in the custody of the United States Marshal under the sentences imposed, filed their petitions for writs of habeas corpus, and, the cases being heard in the circuit court of the United States, a judgment was entered dismissing the writs. 180 Fed. 119. The cases were then brought here by appeal.

From this statement it will appear that the appellants were convicted in a court of competent jurisdiction of the alleged offense charged in the indictment; that a trial was had before a court and jury, which was reviewed by proper proceedings in error in the circuit court of appeals for the fifth circuit, and that this court declined to grant a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the latter court.

The cases have been earnestly and elaborately argued here by counsel for appellants, upon the theory that, in a proceeding of this character, the court may inquire into the facts put in evidence at the trial, at least, so far as is necessary to determine whether there was any inculpating testimony, and for that purpose may examine the bill of exceptions, which it appended to the petition, and which was originally taken for the purpose of bringing the voluminous testimony in the cases into the record in order that a review might be had by the appellate court.

It is contended that an examination of the bill of exceptions will disclose that the alleged conspiracy was not formed in the northern district of Florida, as laid in the indictment; that there is a total lack of evidence to connect the petitioners with any such conspiracy; that the petitioners (notably the petitioner Harlan) are not shown by any competent testimony to have been concerned in any overt act for the carrying out of the alleged conspiracy; that it is not shown that there is any condition of peonage in which Lanninger had been detained, and to which he could be returned, in violation of § 5526 of the Revised Statutes of the United States. In other words, in this feature of the case this court is asked to review the testimony adduced at the trial, with a view to determining the lack of evidence in the record to support the verdict and judgment, although such matters were properly reviewable, and were in fact reviewed, in the error proceedings already referred to.

It is the settled doctrine of this court, often affirmed, that the writ of habeas corpus cannot be used for the purpose of proceedings in error, and that the jurisdiction under that writ is confined to an examination of the record, with a view to determining whether the person restrained of his liberty is detained without authority of law. Gonzales v. Cunningham, 164 U. S. 612, 621, 41 L. ed. 572, 575, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 182; Re Schneider, 148 U. S. 162, 37 L. ed. 406; 13 Sup. Ct. Rep. 572; Whitney v. Dick, 202 U. S. 132, 136, 50 L. ed. 963, 964, 26 Sup. Ct. Rep. 584; Toy Toy v. Hopkins, 212 U. S. 542, 548, 53 L. ed. 644, 646, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 416; Re Wilson, 140 U. S. 575, 582, 35 L. ed. 513, 516, 11 Sup. Ct. Rep. 870.

But it is contended that two recent cases in this court are authority for the proposition that, in a collateral attack by a habeas corpus proceeding, while the weight of testimony cannot be examined into, the record may be investigated with a view of determining whether there is any testimony to support the accusation; and where there is an entire lack of evidence, the court may order a discharge, and language to this effect is referred to in the opinion in Hyde v. Shine, 199 U. S. 84, 50 L. ed. 97, 25 Sup. Ct. Rep. 764, wherein the learned justice, delivering the opinion of the court, said: 'In the Federal courts, however, it is well settled that upon habeas corpus the court will not weigh the evidence, although, if there is an entire lack of evidence to support the accusation, the court may order his discharge.'

That case was a proceeding in habeas corpus to attack the validity of an order made under § 1014 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 716), for the removal of the petitioner from the state of California to the District of Columbia for trial upon an indictment found in the District. In that case it was contended that, inasmuch as § 1014 requires proceedings for the removal of persons from one district to another to be agreeable to the usual mode of process against defendants in such state, and as in the state of California, where the prisoner was arrested, the supreme court had held that the question of probable cause of the prisoner's guilt might be considered upon the writ of habeas corpus, it necessarily followed that such should be the course of procedure in the Federal courts. In answer to this contention, the language above quoted was used. In so stating, the learned judge, speaking for the court, was but affirming the rule well established under § 1014, that there must be some testimony before the commissioner to support the accusation in order to lay the basis for an order of removal, otherwise the accused could be discharged upon habeas corpus, although the court would not weigh the evidence where the record shows that some evidence was taken. This was the construction of § 1014 in Greene v. Henkel, 183 U. S. 249, 261, 46 L. ed. 177, 189, 22 Sup. Ct. Rep. 218. In Greene v. Henkel, Mr. Justice Peckham, speaking for the court, said: 'There must be some competent evidence to show that an offense has been committed over which the court in the other district had jurisdiction, and that the defendant is the individual named in the charge, and that there is probable cause for believing him guilty of the offense charged.' In the case of Hyde v. Shine the justice was but declaring the rule already recognized and enforced under § 1014 of the Revised Statutes.

So, in the other case relied upon, Tinsley v. Treat, 205 U. S. 20, 51 L. ed. 689, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 430, it was held, under the circumstances shown, that a prisoner would be released upon habeas corpus where the proceedings were under § 1014 of the Revised Statutes. It was held that while an indictment constitutes prima facie evidence of the offense, when the defendant offered to show that no offense had been committed triable in the district to which removal was sought, the exclusion of such evidence was not mere error, but a denial of a right secured under the Federal Constitution to be tried in the state and district where the alleged offense was committed, and therefore reviewable under habeas corpus proceedings. Neither Hyde v. Shine nor Tinsley v. Treat is authority for the proposition that a writ of habeas corpus can be made the basis of a review of the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction, where proceedings were had under a constitutional statute giving the court authority to examine into the charges, and to convict or acquit the accused, when the proceedings show no attempt to exert the jurisdiction of the court in excess of its authority.

The learned counsel for appellants rely upon a number of cases which are said to warrant the court in habeas corpus proceedings in examining the bill of exceptions with a view to determining such matters as are herein presented. But an examination of these cases will show that where collateral attacks have...

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