Miles v. United States

Decision Date01 October 1880
Citation26 L.Ed. 481,103 U.S. 304
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

ERROR to the Supreme Court of the Territory of Utah.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.

Mr. Arthur Brown, Mr. W. N. Dusenberry, and Mr. E. D. Hoge for the plaintiff in error.

Mr. Assistant Attorney-General Smith, contra.

MR. JUSTICE WOODS delivered the opinion of the court. Sect. 5352 of the Revised Statutes of the United States declares:——

'Every person having a husband or wife living, who marries another, whether married or single, in a Territory or other place over which the United States has exclusive jurisdiction, is guilty of bigamy, and shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars and by imprisonment for a term not more than five years.'

The plaintiff in error was indicted under this section in the Third District Court of Utah, at Salt Lake City. He was convicted. He appealed to the Supreme Court of the Territory, where the judgment of the District Court was affirmed.

That judgment is now brought to this court for review upon writ of error.

The indictment charged that the plaintiff in error, John Miles, did, on Oct. 24, 1878, at Salt Lake County, in the Territory of Utah, marry one Emily Spencer, and that afterwards, and while he was so married to Emily Spencer, and while she was still living, did, on the same day and at the same county, marry one Caroline Owens, the said Emily Spencer, his former wife, being still living and at that time his legal wife.

The criminal procedure of Utah is regulated by an act of the territorial legislature, passed Feb. 22, 1878. The following are the sections pertinent to this case, which prescribe the rules for the impanelling of juries:——

'SECT. 241. A particular cause of challenge is:——

'1. For such a bias as, when the existence of the facts is ascertained, in judgment of law, disqualifies the juror, and which is known in this act as implied bias.

'2. For the existence of a state of mind on the part of the juror which leads to a just inference, in reference to the case, that he will not act with entire impartiality, which is known in this act as actual bias.

'SECT. 246. If the facts are denied, the challenge must be tried as follows: (1.) If it be for implied bias, by the court; (2.) If it be for actual bias, by triers.'

'SECT. 247. The triers are three impartial persons, not on the jury panel, appointed by the court. All challenges for actual bias must be tried by three triers thus appointed, a majority of whom may decide.'

'SECT. 249. Upon the trial of a challenge to an individual juror, the juror challenged may be examined as a witness to prove or disprove the challenge, and must answer every question pertinent to the inquiry.'

'SECT. 250. Other witnesses may also be examined on either side, and the rules of evidence applicable to the trial of other issues govern the admission or exclusion of evidence on the trial of the challenge.'

'SECT. 252. On the trial of a challenge for actual bias, when the evidence is concluded, the court must instruct the triers that it is their duty to find the challenge true, if, in their opinion, the evidence warrants the conclusion that the juror has such a bias against the party challenging him as to render him not impartial; and that if, from the evidence, they believe him free from such bias, they must find the challenge not true; that a hypothetical opinion unaccompanied with malice or ill-will, founded on hearsay or information supposed to be true, is of itself no evidence of bias sufficient to disqualify a juror. The court can give no other instruction.'

'SECT. 253. The triers must thereupon find the challenge either true or not true, and their decision is final. If they find it true, the juror must be excluded.'

Upon the trial of the case in the District Court of the Territory, Oscar Dunn and Robert Patrick were called as jurors. They were challenged for actual bias, and sworn upon their voire dire. Three triers were appointed by the court to pass upon the challenges to the jurors. Dunn, in answer to questions propounded to him, testified that he believed polygamy to be right, that it was ordained of God, and that the revelations concerning it were revelations from God, and that those revelations should be obeyed, and that he who acted on them should not be convicted by the law of the land.

The juror was challenged by the prosecution 'for actual bias for the existence of a state of mind on his part which led to a just inference that he would not act with entire impartiality.'

The triers found the challenge true, and the juror was rejected.

Robert Patrick was examined on his voire dire, and testified that he believed that the revelation given to Joseph Smith touching polygamy came from God, that it was one of God's laws to his people, and that he who practised polygamy, conscientiously believing that revelation to be from God, was doing God's will. He also testified that, in his opinion, the law of Congress was in conflict with that law of God; that Congress had the right to pass such a law; and that on the trial of a person who was in the practice of polygamy charged with bigamy he would consider it his duty, if satisfied by the evidence, to find the defendant guilty, and that he would do so.

The juror was challenged for actual bias, and the triers found the challenge true, and the juror was excused. A large number of other jurors were examined and challenged, and excused on the same grounds.

Upon the trial, evidence was given tending to show that a short time before the date laid in the indictment, Oct. 24, 1874, the plaintiff in error was in treaty for marrying, at or about the same time, three young women, namely, Emily Spencer, Caroline Owens, and Julia Spencer, and that there was a discussion between them on the question which should be the first wife; and that upon appeal to John Taylor, president of the Mormon Church, the plaintiff in error and the three women being present, it was decided by him that Emily Spencer, being the eldest, should be the first wife; Caroline Owens, being the next younger, the second; and Julia Spencer, being the youngest, the third wife;—that being according to the rules of the church.

It appeared further that marriages of persons belonging to the Mormon Church usually take place at what is called the Endowment House; that the ceremony is performed in secret, and the person who officiates is under a sacred obligation not to disclose the names of the parties to it.

It further appeared that on Oct. 24, 1878, the plaintiff in error was married to the said Caroline Owens, and that on the night of that day he gave a wedding supper at the house of one Cannon, at which were present Emily Spencer, Caroline Owens, and others. Evidence tending to establish these facts having been given to the jury, the court permitted to be given in evidence the declarations made by the plaintiff in error, on that night, in presence of the company assembled, and on subsequent occasions, to the effect that Emily Spencer was his first wife.

Sect. 1604 of the Compiled Laws of Utah declares: 'A husband shall not be a witness for or against his wife, nor a wife a witness for or against her husband.'

Upon the trial, and after the evidence above recited had been given, tending, as the prosecution claimed, to prove the marriage of the plaintiff in error to Emily Spencer just before his marriage to Caroline Owens, the latter was offered as a witness against him to prove the same fact.

Thereupon the defendant admitted, in open court, the charge of the indictment that he had been married to Caroline Owens, and enen offered testimony to prove it; but this was ruled out by the court.

The defendant, therefore, objected to the introduction of Caroline Owens as a witness against him, the objection being based on the statute just quoted.

The court overruled the objection and admitted her as witness, and she gave testimony tending to prove the marriage of the plaintiff in error to Emily Spencer previous to his marriage with the witness.

It appeared from the evidence that the name of Caroline Owens's father was Maile, but that she had been adopted by an uncle and aunt named Owens, and had taken their name, by which she was called and known, but that, when she was baptized in the Mormon Church, she was required to be baptized in her father's name, and was married to Miles under that name.

The court, among other things, charged the jury as follows:——

'If you find from all the facts and circumstances proven in this case, and from the admissions of the defendant, or from either, that the defendant Miles married Emily Spencer, and while she was yet living and his wife he married Caroline Owens, as charged in the indictment, your verdict should be guilty.

'A legal wife cannot, but when it appears in a case that the witness is not a legal wife, but a bigamous or plural wife, then she may testify against the bigamous husband, and her testimony should have just as much weight with the jury as any other witness, if the jury believe her statements to be true. And her evidence may be taken like the evidence of any other witness to prove either the first or second marriage. And so in this case you are at liberty to consider the testimony of Miss Caroline Owens, if you find from all the evidence in the case that she is a second and plural wife, and give it all the weight you think it entitled to, and may use it to prove the first marriage alleged, to wit, the marriage of defendant and Emily Spencer, or any other fact which in your opinion is proven by the testimony, if you believe it, as you do the testimony of any witness to prove any fact about which she has testified.

'The prisoner's guilt must be established beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is such as will produce an abiding conviction in the mind to a moral certainty that the fact exists that is claimed to exist, so...

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  • People v. Brigham
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    • September 7, 1979 explain the term 'reasonable doubt' do not usually result in making it any clearer to the minds of the jury." (Miles v. United States (1880) 103 U.S. 304, 312, 26 L.Ed. 481, accord, Dunbar v. United States (1895) 156 U.S. 185, 199, 15 S.Ct. 325, 39 L.Ed. 390; Holland v. United States (19......
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