State v. Crocker

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtPOTTER, JUSTICE.
Citation40 P. 681,5 Wyo. 385
Decision Date10 June 1895

40 P. 681

5 Wyo. 385


Supreme Court of Wyoming

June 10, 1895

RESERVED QUESTIONS from the District Court for Uinta County, HON. JESSE KNIGHT, Judge.

Application for bail by Edwin S. Crocker, charged by indictment with the crime of murder in the first degree. The facts are fully stated in the opinion.

S. T. Corn, J. H. Ryckman and Lacey & Van Devanter, for defendant.

The Supreme Court has jurisdiction of cases on reserved questions (L. 1888, p. 140; Const., Art. 5, sec. 2). The general superintending control granted the court is something additional to its appellate jurisdiction. It is different from the issuing of writs in aid of its appellate jurisdiction. Since the admission of the State the statute authorizing the reservation of questions for the decision of the Supreme Court has been acted on and such questions repeatedly decided. That practice amounts to a contemporaneous construction of great force respecting the validity of the statute. The U. S. Supreme Court, with only appellate jurisdiction, took jurisdiction of questions where there was a division of opinion between the judges in the circuit court, and decided the same. (Hepburn v. Ellzey, 2 Cranch, 445; U. S. v. Gurney, 4 id., 333; Sergeant v. Biddle, 4 Wheat., 508; U. S. v. Wiltberger, 5 id., 76; U. S. v. Daniel, 6 id., 542; Wilkins v. Hollingsworth, 6 id., 240; Miller v. Stewart, 9 id., 680; Schimmelpennich v. Bayard, 1 Pet., 264; U. S. Bank v. Owens, 2 id., 527; U. S. v. Bank, 6 id., 29; U. S. v. Randenbush, 8 id., 288; Veazie v. Wadleigh, 11 id., 55; N. Y. v. Miln, 11 id., 102; U. S. v. Chicago, 7 How., 185; Ex parte Milligan, 4 Wal., 2; U. S. v. Harris, 106 U.S. 629; U. S. v. Britton, 108 id., 199; U. S. v. Waddell, 112 id., 76; U. S. v. Northway, 120 id., 327; see Dow v. Johnson, 100 U.S. 158; 1 Abbott's U. S. Pr., 338-341; 2 id., 272-274.) A similar statute has been approved in Texas. (Waco v. Waco, 86 Tex. 661.)

Whereas, at common law there was no right to be admitted to bail, but in certain cases only a discretion in the judge, in the American States the fundamental law of most of them has put it beyond the power of either the courts or the legislature to refuse bail except in one particular case. Sec. 14 of Article I of our constitution is in harmony with the enlightened idea, and provides that "all persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties except for capital offenses when the proof is evident or the presumption great." Secs. 6, 7 and 10 of Article I of the constitution still further illustrate the same spirit. With us there is no statute requiring any witness to keep secret the things to which he testified before the grand jury, nor are the grand jurors themselves sworn to such secrecy with reference to the testimony of witnesses before them. Revised Statutes, Secs. 3223, 3233, 3234. The policy of the law in this State is to preserve, as far as possible, the right of all its citizens to life, liberty and property, freedom from malicious attacks and stabs in the back, or in the dark, whether the assailant shall attempt such attacks through the means of a grand jury or otherwise. And the intention of the people in the constitution is clearly and manifestly to emphasize their dissent from the old common law rules and principles as to admission to bail, and their clear intention that bail cannot be refused in any case excepting a case of capital felony, nor even in such case except where the proof is evident or the presumption great. Liberty of the citizen charged with crime is guaranteed with proper safeguards until guilt is established, to the end that, as far as possible, only the guilty shall be punished.

The decisions in States having our constitution as to bail, and having provisions similar to ours with reference to the secrecy of things occurring before the grand jury, are in point upon the question here; and are very largely, if not entirely, in favor of our contention that the accused in this case is entitled to bail. The finding of an indictment does not preclude inquiry into the facts to ascertain whether the prisoner should not be admitted to bail. In re Losasso, 15 Colo. 163; Lynch v. People, 38 Ill. 494; Ex parte Wray, 30 Miss. 673; Lumm v. The State, 3 Ind. 293; Schmidt v. Simmons, 137 Ind. 93; State v. Summons, 19 Ohio 139; Ex parte Floyd, 60 Miss. 913; In re Finlen (Nev.), 18 Pacific, 827; In re Robertson (Tex.), 12 S.W. 1136; Ex parte Albitz, 29 Tex. App., 128; Thrasher v. State, 26 Fla. 526; Finch v. State, 15 id., 633; Ex parte Jones, 31 Tex. Cr., 422; Ex parte Bonner, 100 Ala. 114; In re Smith, 26 Tex. App., 134.

It must be held that the people, by the constitutional provision, did not intend to continue in force the proviso of the statute of 1890, but, on the contrary, to repeal it.

Benjamin F. Fowler, attorney general, Cyrus Beard, M. C. Brown and J. C. Hamm, for the State.

As to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under the Act of March 9th, 1888, to render a decision where important or difficult questions are sent by the lower court to this court for its decision.

The act of 1888 was passed by a territorial legislature, prior to the adoption of the constitution of the State, and at a time when the judicial power was vested in a Supreme Court consisting of a chief justice and two associate justices, such justices being also district judges, there being no separate Supreme Court, as is now provided under our present constitution; the district judges meeting together as a Supreme Court at the time fixed by statute.

Under Section 9 of the Organic Act of Wyoming, page 31, it was provided that the jurisdiction of the several courts shall be appellate and original, and there was consequently no conflict between the Organic Act and the legislative act of 1888, giving to district judges the right to certify difficult questions to the Supreme Court.

By the adoption of the constitution, among other things, it was provided by Section 2, of Article V, that the Supreme Court shall have general appellate jurisdiction . . . in both civil and criminal causes, and shall have a general superintending control over all inferior courts, under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by law.

There is no suggestion in this section as to original jurisdiction given to the Supreme Court in any case, and the only place in the constitution of this State where such jurisdiction is given, is in Section 3 of Article V.

"The Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction in quo warranto and mandamus as to all State officers, and in habeas corpus."

The provision that the Supreme Court shall have general superintending control over all inferior courts in this State, and general appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases, does not certainly give to the court the original jurisdiction of the character asked in the case at bar.

In Section 10 of Article V, it is provided that the district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all cases, both in law and equity, and in criminal cases.

Upon the proposition that this court is without jurisdiction, the following were cited: (Lyon Co. v. Esmeralda Co., 18 Nev. 166; Hubbell v. McCourt, 44 Wis. 586; Ex parte Cosner, 4 Tex. App., 89; Arberry v. Beavers, 6 Tex. 470; Baker v. Chisholm, 3 Tex. 157; Conter v. R. R. Co., 24 Minn. 313; Hoffman v. Mann, 11 id., 366; Shurmeir v. R. R. Co., 12 id., 351; McNamara v. Ry. Co., id., 389; Sturges v. Rogers, 16 Ind. 18; French v. Lighty, 9 id., 475; R. R. Co. v. Condon, 8 Gill & J., 448; Wheeler v. Irr. Co., 9 Colo., 248; In re Rogers, 14 Colo. 18; Marburry v. Madison, 1 Cranch, 137; Vail v. Dinning, 44 Mo. 210; Cruller v. Keener, 17 Ill. 246; Reed v. McCormick, 4 Cal. 342; Sanger v. Truesdale, 8 Mich. 543; Jones v. Smith, 14 id., 334.) The act of March, 1890, providing that no person shall be admitted to bail after an indictment found against him charging a capital offense, was passed after the constitutional convention had completed its labors, although the constitution did not go into effect until July, 1890. It is held in many States that, after indictment found, the presumption of guilt is so strong as to be conclusive against admission to bail. (State v. Mills, 2 Dev. & B., 552; Hight v. U.S. 1 Morris (Ia.), 407; Terr'y v. Benoit, 1 Mart. (La.), 142; People v. McLeod, 1 Hill, 377; People v. Tinder, 19 Cal. 539.)



[5 Wyo. 391] POTTER, JUSTICE.

Edwin S. Crocker stands indicted in the district court of Uinta County for the murder of Harvey Booth. The indictment charges murder in the first degree, which is a capital offense. He was arraigned and pleaded not guilty, and was remanded to the custody of the sheriff and is confined in the jail of said county. On April 19, 1895, the defendant made a written application to the court for admission to bail, alleging as grounds or reasons therefor that the case had been continued for the term; that such continuance was occasioned by the fact that the regular panel of the petit jury had been discharged before the finding of the indictment, and there was not sufficient time remaining of the April term within which to try the cause. Further, that he is not guilty of any offense charged in the indictment; that the proof against him in said cause is not evident, and is wholly insufficient to authorize or support a conviction for any crime or offense whatever; that there is no presumption of his guilt of any offense charged in said indictment, arising from the proof or otherwise, and that the cause is one in which the defendant is entitled to bail under Section 14 of Article 1 of the constitution of this State; and further, that he desires, and is able, to give bail with sufficient sureties in any reasonable sum or amount. In the application thus presented, a hearing was prayed to the end that he might be admitted to bail.

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19 cases
  • Commonwealth v. Talley, 14 MAP 2021
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 22, 2021
    ...fairly and reasonably convince a factfinder beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant is guilty of the charged offense"); State v. Crocker , 5 Wyo. 385, 40 P. 681, 688 (1895) (holding that both the quality and sufficiency of the evidence must be considered).Of the remaining fifteen States th......
  • Ford v. Dilley, 30938.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 18, 1916
    ......state. The Constitution gives right to bail unless the evidence of guilt be of a certain degree. And, if entitled to bail, detention without bail is not a ...A. 847. There is at least no “greater sanctity surrounding the presentment of a grand jury than a prosecution by information” (State v. Crocker, 5 Wyo. 402, 40 Pac. 685); and, where the court has the evidence which the committing magistrate had, the “question of bail is therefore open to ......
  • Pisano v. Shillinger, 90-294
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 26, 1991
    ...(1925). The thrust of Sorrentino and In re Boulter, 5 Wyo. 263, 39 P. 875 (1895), together with the views articulated in State v. Crocker, 5 Wyo. 385, 40 P. 681 (1895), has been to limit the right to bail articulated in Article 1, Section 14, of the Constitution of the State of Wyoming to b......
  • State v. Kusel, 1111
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 27, 1923
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