Pink Franklin v. State of South Carolina

Citation54 L.Ed. 980,218 U.S. 161,30 S.Ct. 640
Decision Date31 May 1910
Docket NumberNo. 164,164
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Messrs. John Adams, Jacob Moorer, and Charles J. Bonaparte for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. J. Fraser Lyon, D. S. Henderson, C. M. Efird, and B. H. Moss for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice Day delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff in error, Pink Franklin, a citizen of the negro race, was convicted, in the court of general sessions for the county of Orangeburg, South Carolina, of the crime of murder by the shooting of one H. E. Valentine; thereupon he was sentenced to suffer the death penalty, and upon appeal to the supreme court of South Carolina the judgment of the court of general sessions was affirmed. 80 S. C. 332, 60 S. E. 953. The case is here upon a writ of error to the supreme court of South Carolina.

The record discloses that the homicide occurred upon the attempt of H. E. Valentine, entine, a constable, to arrest Franklin upon a charge of 'having violated and broken an agricultural contract,' against the form of a statute made and provided in such cases in the state of South Carolina. The statute referred to is § 357 of the Criminal Code of South Carolina, which provides:

'Any laborer working on shares of crop or for wages in money or other valuable consideration, under a verbal or written contract to labor on farm lands, who shall receive advances either in money or supplies, and thereafter wilfully, and without just cause, fail to perform the reasonable service required of him by the terms of said contract, shall be liable to prosecution for a misdemeanor, and on conviction shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than twenty days, nor more than thirty days, or to be fined in the sum of not less than $25 nor more than $100, in the discretion of the court: Provided, the verbal contract herein referred to shall be witnessed by at least two disinterested witnesses.'

Upon the filing of the complaint before a magistrate, what is termed an arrest warrant was issued, directed to Henry E. Valentine, as special constable, commanding him to apprehend the plaintiff in error because of the alleged violation of the agricultural contract, and to bring him before the magistrate, to be dealt with according to law.

As it becomes necessary, in considering the Federal questions raised in the record, to know the facts concerning the homicide, we take occasion to briefly summarize such as are pertinent. The testimony offered for the state and that offered for the plaintiff in error differed widely as to what occurred at the time the constable was shot. The record discloses that about the time of the attempted arrest, Valentine, the constable, summoning one Carter to assist him, about 3 o'clock on the morning of the homicide, proceeded to the farm of one Spires, who lived near to Franklin's house, and requested him to induce Franklin to go to his house, that he might be there arrested. Accordingly, Spires went to Franklin's, and, having aroused him, asked him to do some plowing for him. Franklin replied that he would do the plowing that afternoon, but could not work for Spires that morning. Thereupon Valentine and Carter went to Franklin's house to make the arrest. For the state the testimony tended to show that the door of Franklin's house and the inner door of his bedroom were open; that Valentine rapped with a knife on the steps of the house, and called to Franklin, and received no response; that Valentine thereupon directed Carter to go around that house, which he did, and Valentine, entering the door, was instantly shot by Franklin, and Valentine's pistol was seized and wrung from his hand; that after he was shot a colored woman came in with an axe and said that she had a good will to finish up the job; that Carter, upon hearing the pistol shots, which were fired in rapid succession, ran around the house, and was caught by the leg by Franklin's son, a small boy; that upon entering the house he, too, was shot, receiving a slight wound.

On other hand, the accused testified that he had no acquaintance with Valentine; that he did not know that he was an officer of the law and armed with a warrant for his arrest; that he heard nothing until the door was hurled open, and Valentine said to him 'Hands up!' that he (Franklin) did not move; that Valentine shot him, inflicting a wound in his shoulder; that he fell down by his pallet, got his gun, and fired, intending to get out of the way, and did get out as fast as he could.

In a proceeding of this kind this court has no jurisdiction to notice other errors than those which involve alleged violations of Federal rights secured by the Constitution of the United States or Federal statutes. The states have the right to administer their own laws for the prosecution of crime, and the jurisdiction of this court extends only to the reversal of such state proceedings where fundamental rights secured by the Federal law have been denied by the proceedings in the state courts. Rogers v. Peck, 199 U. S. 425, 434, 50 L. ed. 256, 260, 26 Sup. Ct. Rep. 87, and cases there cited.

We will proceed, then, to examine the errors assigned which may be fairly said to raise Federal questions reviewable here. A motion was made to quash the indictment because of the disqualification of the grand jury which returned it. The argument being that the Federal act of June 25, 1868 (15 Stat. at L. 73, chap. 70), provides that the Constitutions of certain states, including South Carolina, should never be amended or changed so as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States, of the right to vote in said state, given to them by the Constitution thereof, named in the act, except for the punishment for crimes such as are now felonies at common law, whereof they shall have been duly convicted under laws equally applicable to all the states. The necessary qualifications of voters in South Carolina at that time were defined in § 2, article 8, of the Constitution of South Carolina of 1868, and were: 'Every male citizen of the United States of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, not laboring under the disabilities named in this Constitution, without distinction of race, color, or former condition, who shall be a resident of this state at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, or who shall thereafter reside in this state one year and in the county in which he offers to vote sixty days next preceding any election, shall be entitled to vote for all officers that are now or hereafter may be elected by the people, and upon all questions submitted to the electors at any elections: Provided, that no person shall be allowed to vote or hold office who is now or hereafter may be disqualified therefor by the Constitution of the United States until such disqualification shall be removed by the Congress of the United States: Provided further, that no person, while kept in any almshouse or asylum, or of unsound mind, or confined in any public prison, shall be allowed to vote or hold office.' These qualifications for voters were changed by the Constitution of 1895, and now are:

'Art. 2, § 4. The qualifications for suffrage shall be as follows: '(a) residence in the state for two years, in the county one year, in the polling precinct in which the elector offers to vote, four months, and the payment, six months before any election, of any poll tax then due and payable; . . . (d) Any person who shall apply for registration after January 1st, 1898, if otherwise qualified, shall be registered: Provided, that he can both read and write any section of this Constitution submitted to him by the registration officer, or can show that he owns and has paid all taxes collectible during the previous year on property in this state assessed at three hundred dollars ($300) or more."

This change in the qualification for voters, it is said, worked a deprivation of the rights of the accused, because the qualification of grand jurors under the constitution of 1895, they being required to be electors of the state, made eligible different persons than those who were qualified to be electors under the Constitution of 1868. As to this contention, the South Carolina supreme court held that the Constitution of 1895 laid no restriction on color or previous condition to entitle one to be an elector; that the act of Congress of 1868 had no reference to the selection of jurors, and that it was inapplicable to the Constitution of the state in regard to juries.

If it could be held that the act of Congress restricted the state of South Carolina in fixing the qualifications for suffrage, it is unnecessary to decide the point in this case, as there is nothing in the record to show that the grand jury, as actually impaneled, contained any person who was not qualified as an elector under the Constitution of 1868, nor is there anything to show that the grand jury was so made up as to prevent...

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