State v. Superior Court of Arizona In and For Pinal County

Citation25 Ariz. 226,215 P. 538
Decision Date02 June 1923
Docket NumberCivil 2189
PartiesSTATE OF ARIZONA, at the Relation of JOHN W. MURPHY, Attorney General of the State of Arizona, Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA, Within and for the County of Pinal, STEPHEN H. ABBEY, Judge, and J. D. BENNETT, Clerk of Said Court, Respondents
CourtSupreme Court of Arizona

Original certiorari proceeding. Record quashed.

Mr John W. Murphy, Attorney General, and Mr. A. R. Lynch, Mr Earl Anderson and Mr. E. W. McFarland, Assistant Attorneys General, for Petitioner.

Mr. H J. Robinson, for Respondents.



This is an original certiorari proceeding, on the relation of the Attorney General of the state, against the superior court of Pinal county, Stephen H. Abbey, Judge, and J.D. Bennett, clerk of said court.

The facts out of which this proceeding arises are as follows: On June 10, 1922, Manuel Martinez was sentenced to suffer death by the superior court of Santa Cruz county, Arizona, upon the verdict of a jury imposing that penalty, for the capital offense of murder, and the date for the execution of the sentence was fixed as the eighteenth day of August, 1922. Thereafter the said Manuel Martinez attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court from said judgement of conviction and sentence. The appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court on the sixteenth day of March, 1923, because it was not taken within sixty days after the rendition of the judgment of conviction.

The judgment not having been executed at the time originally fixed, because of said attempted appeal, on application of the county attorney of Santa Cruz county, Martinez was directed by the superior court of said county to be brought before it, and no legal reason appearing to exist why the sentence of death should not be carried out the court ordered the superintendent of the state prison to execute the judgment on the twenty-fifth day of May, 1923, in accordance with section 9, Initiative Measure, Laws 1919, page 19.

On May 24, 1923, at and about the hour of 4:00 P.M., one Roberto E. Quiros made application to the superior court of Pinal county, at Florence, where the state prison is situated, for a writ of habeas corpus, in behalf of the said Manuel Martinez, setting forth therein that said Martinez was restrained of his liberty in violation of article 14 of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States; that he was about to be deprived of his life without due process of law and without the equal protection of the law; that the judge of the superior court of Santa Cruz county in fixing the date for the execution of the judgment as of May 25, 1923, was without jurisdiction of the person or the subject matter; and that all such acts and doings were and are without authority of law, and in violation of said Fourteenth Amendment and section 4 of article 2 of the Constitution of the state.

The defendant Stephen H. Abbey, Superior Judge as aforesaid, thereupon ordered and directed that a writ of habeas corpus issue, returnable May 26, 1923, at 9:30 A.M. The superintendent of the prison obeying this improvidently issued writ, the regular mandate of the law failed of execution at the time fixed.

The petition for writ of certiorari was filed in this court by the Attorney General on May 25th, and the writ immediately issued. It was served upon the defendants on May 26th. By it the defendants were commanded to certify fully and have before the Supreme Court, at the capitol, on the twenty-ninth day of May, 1923, a transcript of all the records and proceedings in the application for the writ of habeas corpus, together with all orders and minute entries therein, and in the meantime the said defendant Stephen H. Abbey, Judge as aforesaid, was commanded to desist from further proceedings in the matters to be reviewed.

On the date set for the hearing there was filed by the clerk of the superior court of Pinal county copies of the petition for the writ of habeas corpus, the substance of which we have heretofore given, the writ, the order of the Supreme Court dismissing Martinez's appeal, the order of the superior court of Santa Cruz county directing the sheriff to return Martinez from the state prison to Santa Cruz county, and the order directing the superintendent of the state prison to carry into execution the judgment of the court. There is no other or further reason suggested justifying the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus other than may be discovered upon the face of the above-enumerated papers.

The petition for a writ of habeas corpus states no fact showing, or tending to show, that Martinez's imprisonment was illegal, or in violation of any law. The mere assertion that he was being detained in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that he had been denied the equal protection of the law and due process of law, means nothing. It does not show that the defendant Martinez did not have a fair and impartial trial before a court with jurisdiction to hear and determine the question of his guilt. Indeed, it shows nothing in the way of omission or commission that in the least violated any law of the land. It is made up of bold untenable assertions and conclusions and assumptions. The statement that the superior court of Santa Cruz county did not have jurisdiction of the person and the subject matter at the time the court reset the date for carrying into effect its judgment and sentence is a bare bold conclusion of the pleader containing no element of fact.

As is said in People v. Superior Court, 234 Ill. 186, 14 Ann. Cas 753, 84 N.E. 875:

"Not every document labeled a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is necessarily such a petition within the meaning of the law. . . . The issuance of the writ upon the filing of a petition is not a mere matter of course. The writ should never issue unless a petition is presented which is in substantial accord and compliance with the provisions of the statute, and which shows upon its face that the petitioner is entitled to his discharge."

The defendant Abbey seemed to entertain the idea that it was his duty to issue the writ on the mere filing of the petition therefor, without regard to its contents. In this of course he is in error. The writ of habeas corpus should not be issued upon a statement of facts that do not show, or tend at least to show, the prisoner is entitled to his discharge. People v. Superior Court, supra.

The case of People v. Zimmer, 252 Ill. 9, 96 N.E. 529, involved the attempted exercise of jurisdiction over a matter by two courts of co-ordinate powers, and the right of one of such courts to review the judgment of the other by writ of habeas corpus. It was said:

"The writ of habeas corpus is a high prerogative writ, and when properly issued supersedes all other writs, and by reason of that fact it should be confined to its legitimate office, otherwise an ignorant, reckless or partisan judge, by usurpation, may through the writ work a great wrong to society and the state by discharging offenders who have been lawfully convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by other courts while legally exercising co-ordinate jurisdiction with the court granting such discharge. It has never been the office of the writ of habeas corpus to operate as a writ of review, and we take it that no well-considered case can be found where it has been held that the writ may properly be used to review the judgment of a court where the judgment sought to be reviewed had been rendered by a court which had jurisdiction of the person and subject matter of the suit in which the judgment had been rendered. Ex parte Smith, 117 Ill.. 63, 7 N.E. 683; People v. Allen, 160 Ill. 400, 43 N.E. 332; People v. Jonas, 173 Ill. 316, 50 N.E. 1051; People v. Murphy, 212 Ill. 584, 72 N.E. 902; People v. Superior Court, 234 Ill. 186, 84 N.E. 875; People v. Strassheim, 242 Ill. 359, 90 N.E. 118; Martin v. District Court, 37 Colo. 110, 119 Am. St. Rep. 262, 86 P. 82; Ex parte Parks, 93 U.S. 18, 23 L.Ed. 787; Kaizo v. Henry, 211 U.S. 146, 53 L.Ed. 125, 29 S.Ct. 41; Harlan v. McGourin, 218 U.S. 442, 54 L.Ed. 1101, 31 S.Ct. 44."

The Supreme Court of Colorado in Martin v. District Court, supra, 37 Colo. 110, 119 Am. St. Rep. 262, 86 P. 82, uses language so apt to the facts and circumstances of this case that we quote the same with our approval:

"For another reason that court exceeded its jurisdiction in the premises. The sentence under which the prisoner was in custody was pronounced by the district court of Otero county. That court had jurisdiction of the crime and of the person of the defendant, and the power to...

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