Morris v. United States

Decision Date22 July 1942
Docket NumberNo. 10167.,10167.
Citation128 F.2d 912
PartiesMORRIS et al. v. UNITED STATES.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Frank J. Looney and Ben F. Roberts, both of Shreveport, La., and J. Ralph Goff, of Arcadia, La., for appellants.

Malcolm E. Lafargue, U. S. Atty., of Shreveport, La., for appellee.

Before HUTCHESON and HOLMES, Circuit Judges, and STRUM, District Judge.

HUTCHESON, Circuit Judge.

Appellant was convicted on 3 counts of an indictment charging him and one Morris, in five counts, two charging appellant, and two charging Morris, separately with the substantive offenses of endeavoring, and one charging them together with conspiracy, to corruptly influence a juror. Sentenced on the three counts to two years in the penitentiary, he alone appeals. Complaining neither of the insufficiency of the evidence to establish his guilt, nor of the charge of the court, appellant rests his case for reversal on, (1) the claimed illegality in the constitution and therefore the consequent nullity of the grand jury which indicted him; (2) the failure of the indictment to sufficiently charge him with an offense; (3) prejudice by misjoining in the same indictment, separate charges against him and against Morris; and (4) the denial of his motions for separate trial and to compel the government to elect.

The points against the grand jury were made by plea in abatement. They were, (1) that Dalton, the jury commissioner who drew the grand jury, was not, as required by statute, a duly appointed jury commissioner, and (2) that the Western District of Louisiana having no city of more than 300,000, only one grand jury at a time may be convened in it, and a grand jury drawn for the entire Western District of Louisiana, convened in the Shreveport Division on February 24, 1941, not having been discharged, the court was without power, on April 11, 1941, to call the grand jury, which returned this indictment, to convene at Lake Charles on April 28, 1941.

The points made against the sufficiency of the indictment are (1) that the counts of the indictment on which he was convicted, without setting out any specific acts, charge the offense merely in the general terms of the statute; (2) the conspiracy count is attacked, as confused and ambiguous, in that it in effect charges separate conspiracies, and is bad for duplicity.

The attack on the indictment for misjoinder and on the ruling denying appellant's motion to require an election, is based on the fact that Counts 1 and 2 charge this defendant alone, and Counts 3 and 4 charge Morris alone, with corruptly endeavoring to influence and impede the due administration of justice.

The United States, pointing to the uniform course of decision1 that attacks upon an indictment for irregularities in the constitution of a grand jury, will not, unless they go to the very existence of the grand jury, be heard to affect it, in the absence of a showing of substantial injury or prejudice to the defendant, insists that since not only no showing but no claim of such injury is made, the objections must be regarded as wholly without merit. Appellant, on its part, urges that these matters go, not to irregularities or defects in the constitution of the grand jury but to its very existence as a grand jury, and that a grand jury in the federal court must be a de jure, it may not be a de facto grand jury. United States v. Johnson, 7 Cir., 123 F.2d 111, 120. It insists that the objections it lodges against the legality of the grand jury are not formal but of the utmost substance, and that wholly without regard to questions of prejudice or injury to the defendant, the question whether the grand jury was legally constituted must be considered and determined here. Agreeing with appellee that normally an indictment will not be questioned because of irregularities in the constitution of a grand jury unless they show that prejudice or injury has resulted therefrom, but with appellant that a complaint, which, as here, challenges the very existence of the grand jury as a legal organization, must be given consideration, we turn to an examination of it.

The plea in abatement was decided below and the correctness of the ruling must be determined here upon a stipulation of fact.2 The district judge thought that upon the stipulated facts the plea was not well taken. We agree. As to the claim that Dalton who drew the grand jury, was not duly appointed, the stipulation shows positively that he was appointed, and that if the court had the power to appoint more than one commissioner in the district, he was duly appointed. The statute authorizing the appointment of jury commissioners, Jud.Code § 276, 28 U.S.C.A. § 412, does not in terms set a limit to the number of jury commissioners the judge may appoint. Appellant cites no authority in support of his argument that it limits the appointment to one commissioner to a district. United States v. Rockefeller, D.C., 221 F. 462, 465, is direct authority to the contrary. The division not only of this but of other judicial districts into separate divisions, and the constitution of complete machinery for transacting the business of and holding a court there, of which we take judicial knowledge, completely support the view there taken.

Its other point that in a district composed of divisions as this district is, there may be only one grand jury summoned to inquire into offenses for the entire district, that, in short, a grand jury cannot be validly summoned in the Lake Charles Division until prior grand juries summoned for other divisions have been discharged, is no better taken. Here again appellant, attacking as illegal a practice so general over the United States that we take judicial knowledge of it, ought to come prepared to point to some statute or decision striking it down. But relying entirely upon the provisions of Section 421, Title 28, U.S.C.A., as amended April 17, 1940, "no grand jury shall be summoned to attend any district court unless the judge thereof, in his own discretion or upon a notification by the district attorney that such jury will be needed, orders a venire to issue therefor.", he cites no decision giving that provision the construction he claims for it, or otherwise limiting grand juries in a five division district, to one grand jury for the whole of it. It will be noted that this statute contains no directions as to the constitution and organization of a grand jury and that while it prohibits the summoning of a grand jury for a district court, unless the judge orders it, it does not place any limitation on the number of district courts that may be held at the same time in any district. On the contrary, by the last sentence of the statute, "the district court may in term order a grand jury to be summoned at such time, and to serve such time as it may direct", it makes it clear that the power of the district judge to call grand juries is not limited.

In short, the provision on which appellant relies merely negatives the power of others than a district judge, to draw a grand jury, and the statute as a whole, in terms confirms the implications of its first sentence that no one but a judge of a district court can draw a grand jury, and it is for him to say when and for what time grand juries may be drawn.

In Breese v. United States, 4 Cir., 203 F. 824, 828, it was said of the objection, that the court had not issued a formal order directing that writ of venire facias issue. "An order was made and entered of record * * * requiring the clerk and jury commissioner to draw the jurors * * * Section 810, Rev.Stats. * * * reads: `No grand jury shall be summoned * * * unless * * * the judge * * * orders a venire to issue therefor * * *'". We are of the opinion that in enacting this statute, Congress had no intent to legislate as to the validity of indictments. The purpose was merely to prevent the expense of having a grand jury unnecessarily summoned. In Clawson v. United States, 114 U.S. 477, 487, 5 S.Ct. 949, 954, 29 L.Ed. 179, the court said: "In United States v. Hill Fed.Cas. No. 15,364, 1 Brock 156, Chief Justice Marshall, speaking of the law as it then existed, says: `It has...

To continue reading

Request your trial
6 cases
  • United States v. Liss, 223.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • October 18, 1943
    ...31, 41 L.Ed. 355; United States v. Smith, supra, 112 F.2d 83, 85; Firotto v. United States, supra, 124 F.2d 532, 535; Morris v. United States, 5 Cir., 128 F.2d 912, 917. Here it would have been competent upon a trial of Liss and Conte upon the "lead was conspiracy" alone to prove that they ......
  • Kahm v. United States, 18855.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • April 23, 1962
    ...v. United States, 328 U. S. 640, 66 S.Ct. 1180, 90 L.Ed. 1489; Rogers v. United States, 5 Cir., 128 F.2d 973, 974; Morris v. United States, 5 Cir., 128 F.2d 912, 916. An examination of the material mailed by appellant under the circumstances charged in counts 8 and 9 discloses that it was o......
  • Nolan v. United States, 13498.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • October 30, 1947
    ...validity of indictments. The purpose was merely to prevent the expense of having a grand jury unnecessarily summoned." Morris v. United States, 5 Cir., 128 F.2d 912, 916, certiorari denied, 317 U.S. 661, 63 S.Ct. 60, 87 L. Ed. 531; Breese v. United States, 4 Cir., 203 F. 824, 828. Moreover,......
  • United States v. Wallace & Tiernan, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • June 23, 1965
    ...Nolan v. United States, 163 F.2d 768 (8th Cir. 1947), cert. denied, 333 U.S. 846, 68 S.Ct. 649, 92 L.Ed. 1130 (1948); Morris v. United States, 128 F.2d 912 (5th Cir.), cert. denied sub nom. Lacy v. United States, 317 U.S. 661, 60 S.Ct. 60 (1942); United States v. Brown, 36 F.R.D. 204, 207 (......
  • 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