Skinner v. State ex rel. Williamson, Case Number: 28229

CourtSupreme Court of Oklahoma
Writing for the CourtHURST, J.
Citation189 Okla. 235,115 P.2d 123,1941 OK 60
PartiesSKINNER v. STATE ex rel. WILLIAMSON, Atty. Gen.
Decision Date18 February 1941
Docket NumberCase Number: 28229

1941 OK 60
115 P.2d 123
189 Okla. 235

SKINNER
v.
STATE ex rel.
WILLIAMSON, Atty. Gen.

Case Number: 28229

Supreme Court of Oklahoma

Decided: February 18, 1941


Syllabus

¶0 1.CONSTITUTIONAL LAW--Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act not violative of consititutional provisions prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment and enactment of bill of attainder or post facto law.

Article 1, Ch. 26, S. L. 1935, 57 O. S. A. §§ 171-195, known as the Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act, is a eugenic measure and not a penal law and does not violate section 9, art. 2, of the State Constitution, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment, or section 15, art. 2, of the Constitution, prohibiting the enactment of a bill of attainder or ex post facto law.

2. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW--Police Power-Presumptions favoring consititutionality of statute.

In determining whether a statute is a reasonable exercise of the police power as against the unlawful infringement of a constitutional right, all presumptions of validity surrounding legislation will be indulged, and such a statute will not be declared unconstitutional unless it appears beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no real or substantial connection between the provisions thereof and the preservation of the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare.

3. SAME----Conclusiveness of legislative determination of fact as basis for enactment of law under police power of state.

Where the Legislature has determined a fact as the basis for the enactment of a law under the police power of the state, the Supreme Court is not at liberty to declare the law unconstitutional as an infringement of an inherent or constitutional right unless it appears beyond a reasonable doubt that such finding of fact is clearly erroneous.

4. SAME---Sterilization of due process clause because court not required to find defendant is probable potential parent of child of criminal tendencies.

Article 1, Ch. 26, S. L. 1935, 57 O. S. A. §§ 171-195, which provides notice and an opportunity to be heard before a court or a jury, and provides that, "if the court or jury, as the case may be, find the defendant to be a habitual criminal, and that said defendant may be rendered sexually sterile without detriment to his or her general health, then and in that event the court shall render judgment to the effect that said defendant be rendered sexually sterile," does not deprive the defendant of due process of law because a third finding to the effect that the defendant is the probable potential parent of a child of criminal tendencies is not required, the legislative act being a sufficient finding of such fact.

Appeal from District Court, Pittsburg County; R. W. Higgins, Judge.

Action by the State ex rel. Mac Q. Williamson, Attorney General, against Jack T. Skinner under provisions of the "Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act." From an adverse judgment, defendant appeals. Affirmed.

Claud Briggs and John Morrison, both of Oklahoma City, for plaintiff in error.

Mac Q. Williamson, Atty. Gen., and Owen J. Watts, Asst. Atty. Gen., for defendant in error.

HURST, J.

¶1 This action was instituted in the district court by the State of Oklahoma against Jack T. Skinner under the provisions of chapter 26, art. 1, S. L. 1935, 57 O. S. A. §§ 171-195, known as the "Oklahoma Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act."

¶2 The act was enacted pursuant to the police power of the state. It defines an habitual criminal to mean a person who has been convicted two or more times to final judgment of the commission of crimes amounting to felonies involving moral turpitude, either in a court of competent jurisdiction of this state or any other state, and is thereafter convicted to final judgment in a court of competent jurisdiction of this state of the commission of a crime amounting to a felony involving moral turpitude and sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment in an Oklahoma Penitentiary or Reformatory or any other like penal institution now or hereafter established by the state. Excepted from the act are persons convicted of offenses arising out of the violation of the prohibitory laws, revenue acts, embezzlement, or political offenses.

¶3 The act provides that any person adjudged to be such an habitual criminal shall be rendered sexually sterile; if a male, by the operation of vasectomy; and, if a female, by the operation of salpingectomy.

¶4 The act provides that whenever it is brought to the attention of the Attorney General that any person has the status of an habitual criminal as defined by the act, the Attorney General shall commence a proceeding against such person by filing a petition in the district court in the county where he may be found and causing a summons to be issued by the clerk of the court. The act provides the form and contents of the petition and further that the defendant shall file an answer. It further provides that the cause shall be set for trial any time after the expiration of ten days from the day defendant's answer is filed.

¶5 As to the trial, the material provisions are as follows: "And for the trial of such cases, the practice and procedure shall be that now or hereafter provided for in the Code of Civil Procedure of this state, so far as the same may be applicable to and not inconsistent with the provisions of this act." Either party may demand that the questions of fact arising from the issues made by the pleadings be tried to a jury. "In event the court or jury, as the case may be, finds the defendant not to be an habitual criminal, as herein defined, the court shall render judgment denying the plaintiff's petition. But if the court or jury, as the case may be, finds the defendant to be such an habitual criminal, and, that said defendant may be rendered sexually sterile without detriment to his or her general health, then and in that event the court shall render judgment to the effect that said defendant be rendered sexually sterile."

¶6 The act further provides for an appeal to this court from the orders and judgment of the trial court. The act contains other provisions, but they have no bearing on the questions presented for determination on this appeal.

¶7 In the instant case a proceeding was filed against the defendant, Jack T. Skinner. The matter was submitted to a jury. Defendant, an inmate in the State Penitentiary, at McAlester, admitted that he had been convicted three times,--the first for stealing chickens, and his two subsequent convictions for robbery with firearms. The date of the last conviction was October 15, 1934, which was prior to the passage of the act. Under the provisions of the act, therefore, the only questions to be determined by the jury were (1) whether he was an habitual criminal as defined by the act, and (2) whether he might be rendered sexually sterile without detriment to his general health. Upon this question the parties introduced evidence, and the jury found that the general health of the defendant would not be impaired by the operation. Under the findings of the jury the court entered its judgment ordering that the defendant be made sexually sterile, from which judgment the defendant has appealed.

¶8 There is ample evidence to support the findings of the jury on the issues left to its determination, and the primary purpose of this appeal is to test the constitutionality of the act.

¶9 1. It is contended that the act inflicts cruel and unusual punishment in violation of section 9, art. 2, of the Oklahoma Constitution, and further that the act constitutes a bill of attainder and is an ex post facto law, and is violative of section 15, art. 2, of the Oklahoma Constitution, and section 10, art. 1, of the Federal Constitution. These constitutional inhibitions have reference only to punishment for crime. 12 C. J. 1099, 1108; 11 Am. Jur. 1175, 1179. These contentions are, therefore, upon the premise that the act in question is a penal law, and that sterilization is inflicted as a punishment.

¶10 Where the operation of vasectomy is required or authorized in a purely penal statute as a punishment for crime, it has been held to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. See Davis v. Berry, 216 Fed. 413; and Mickle v. Hendrichs, 262 Fed. 687. However, in State v. Feilen, 70 Wash. 65, 126, P. 75, construing a strictly penal statute, the court held that the operation did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. But whatever may be our views on that question, if the act in question is a purely penal one, we are inclined to think it would be invalid as to defendant as an ex post facto law in that at the time defendant committed his last offense and was convicted therefor, the act in question had not yet been passed.

¶11 On the other hand, the objections now being urged are not applicable where the operation of vasectomy is required as a eugenic measure, and not as a punishment. In such case it is said to be analogous to compulsory vaccination and is non-punitive. In re Main, 162 Okla. 65, 19 P.2d 153; Smith v. Command, Wayne County Probate Judge, 231 Mich. 409, 204 N. W. 140; State v....

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14 practice notes
  • Skinner v. State of Oklahoma Williamson, No. 782
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 1, 1942
    ...operation of vasectomy be performed on petitioner was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma by a five to four decision. 189 Okl. 235, 115 P.2d 123. Several objections to the constitutionality of the Act have been pressed upon us. It is urged that the Act cannot be sustained as an exerci......
  • City of Okla. City v. Balkman, No. 118,950
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • December 7, 2020
    ...123.49 Wilhelm v. Gray, 1988 OK 142, 766 P.2d 1357.50 Price v. Reed, 1986 OK 43, 725 P.2d 1254.51 Skinner v. State ex. rel . Williamson, 1941 OK 60, 189 Okla. 235, 115 P.2d 123.52 State v. Nesbitt, 1981 OK 113, 634 P.2d 1306.53 Resolute Ins. Co. v. State, 1971 OK 7, 479 P.2d 956.54 State v.......
  • Union Texas Petroleum, A Div. of Allied Chemical Corp. v. Corporation Com'n of State of Okl., No. 53181
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • July 21, 1981
    ...does not extend to overturning private contracts where not necessary for such accomplishment." In Skinner v. State, 189 Okl. 235, 115 P.2d 123 (1941), 115 P.2d at page 126, this Court " 'Due process' has a dual significance, as it pertains to procedure and substantive law. As to procedure i......
  • Seal v. Corporation Com'n, Nos. 61636
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • June 17, 1986
    ...Vol. 1, Sec. 63." 11 See also Samson Resources Co. v. Corporation Com'n, 702 P.2d 19, 22 (Okla.1985). 12 Skinner v. State, 189 Okl. 235, 115 P.2d 123, 126 13 Semke v. State ex rel. Okl. Motor Vehicle Com'n, 465 P.2d 441, 445 (Okla.1970). 14 U.S. Const. amend. 14; Okla. Const. art. 2 §§ 2, 7......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Skinner v. State of Oklahoma Williamson, No. 782
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 1, 1942
    ...operation of vasectomy be performed on petitioner was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma by a five to four decision. 189 Okl. 235, 115 P.2d 123. Several objections to the constitutionality of the Act have been pressed upon us. It is urged that the Act cannot be sustained as an exerci......
  • City of Okla. City v. Balkman, No. 118,950
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • December 7, 2020
    ...123.49 Wilhelm v. Gray, 1988 OK 142, 766 P.2d 1357.50 Price v. Reed, 1986 OK 43, 725 P.2d 1254.51 Skinner v. State ex. rel . Williamson, 1941 OK 60, 189 Okla. 235, 115 P.2d 123.52 State v. Nesbitt, 1981 OK 113, 634 P.2d 1306.53 Resolute Ins. Co. v. State, 1971 OK 7, 479 P.2d 956.54 State v.......
  • Union Texas Petroleum, A Div. of Allied Chemical Corp. v. Corporation Com'n of State of Okl., No. 53181
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • July 21, 1981
    ...does not extend to overturning private contracts where not necessary for such accomplishment." In Skinner v. State, 189 Okl. 235, 115 P.2d 123 (1941), 115 P.2d at page 126, this Court " 'Due process' has a dual significance, as it pertains to procedure and substantive law. As to procedure i......
  • Seal v. Corporation Com'n, Nos. 61636
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • June 17, 1986
    ...Vol. 1, Sec. 63." 11 See also Samson Resources Co. v. Corporation Com'n, 702 P.2d 19, 22 (Okla.1985). 12 Skinner v. State, 189 Okl. 235, 115 P.2d 123, 126 13 Semke v. State ex rel. Okl. Motor Vehicle Com'n, 465 P.2d 441, 445 (Okla.1970). 14 U.S. Const. amend. 14; Okla. Const. art. 2 §§ 2, 7......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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