United States v. Debrow United States v. Wilkinson United States v. Brashier United States v. Bogers United States v. Jackson 55

Decision Date16 November 1953
Docket NumberNos. 51,s. 51
Citation74 S.Ct. 113,346 U.S. 374,98 L.Ed. 92
PartiesUNITED STATES v. DEBROW. UNITED STATES v. WILKINSON. UNITED STATES v. BRASHIER. UNITED STATES v. BOGERS. UNITED STATES v. JACKSON. to 55
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. John F. Davis, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr.Ben F. Cameron, Jackson, Miss., W. S. Henley, Jackson, Miss., R. W. Thompson, Jr., Gulfport, Miss., Albert S. Johnston, Jr., Biloxi, Miss., for respondents.

Mr. Justice MINTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

The respondents here, defendants below, were charged by separate indictments with the crime of perjury, as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1621, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1621. 1 Each indictment read in material part as follows:

'(T)he defendant herein, having duly taken an oath before a competent tribunal, to wit: a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments known as the Subcommittee on Investigations, a duly created and authorized subcommittee of the United States Senate conducting official hearings in the Southern District of Mississippi, and inquiring in a matter then and there pending before the said subcommittee in which a law of the United States authorizes that an oath be administered, that he would testify truly, did unlawfully, knowingly and wilfully, and contrary to said oath, state a material matter which he did not believe to be true. * * *'

The defendants filed motions to dismiss, which were sustained on the ground that the indictments did not allege the name of the person who administered the oath nor his authority to do so.2 The Court of Appeals affirmed, one judge dissenting, 203 F.2d 699, and we granted certiorari, 345 U.S. 991, 73 S.Ct. 1134, because of the importance of the question in the administration of federal criminal law.

An indictment is required to set forth the elements of the offense sought to be charged.

'The true test of the sufficiency of an indictment is not whether it could have been made more definite and certain, but whether it contains the elements of the offense intended to be charged, 'and sufficiently apprises the defendant of what he must be prepared to meet, and, in case any other proceedings are taken against him for a similar offense, whether the record shows with accuracy to what extent he may plead a former acquittal or conviction.' Cochran and Sayre v. United States, 157 U.S. 286, 290, 15 S.Ct. 628, 630, 39 L.Ed. 704; Rosen v. United States, 161 U.S. 29, 34, 16 S.Ct. 434, (435), 480, 40 L.Ed. 606.' Hagner v. United States, 285 U.S. 427, 431, 52 S.Ct. 417, 419, 76 L.Ed. 861.

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 18 U.S.C.A., were designed to eliminate technicalities in criminal pleading and are to be construed to secure simplicity in procedure. Rule 2, F.R.Crim.Proc. Rule 7(c) provides in pertinent part as follows:

'The indictment * * * shall be a plain, concise and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged. * * * It need not contain * * * any other matter not necessary to such statement. * * *'

The essential elements of the crime of perjury as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1621, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1621, are (1) an oath authorized by law of the United States, (2) taken before a competent tribunal, officer or person, and (3) a false statement wilfully made as to facts material to the hearing. The indictments allege that the subcommittee of the Senate was a competent tribunal, pursuing matters properly before it, that in such proceeding it was authorized by a law of the United States to administer oaths, and that each defendant duly took an oath before such competent tribunal and wilfully testified falsely as to material facts.

The oath administered must be authorized by a law of the United States. This requirement is met by the allegations in the indictments that the defendants had 'duly taken an oath.' 'Duly taken' means an oath taken according to a law which authorizes such oath. See Robertson v. Perkins, 129 U.S. 233, 236, 9 S.Ct. 279, 280, 32 L.Ed. 686. The name of the person who administered the oath is not an essential element of the crime of perjury; the identity of such person goes only to the proof of whether the defendants were duly sworn. Therefore, all the essential elements of the offense of perjury...

To continue reading

Request your trial
453 cases
  • U.S. v. Espy, Criminal Action No. 97-0335 (RMU).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • December 23, 1997
    ...Russell v. United States, 369 U.S. 749, 763-64, 82 S.Ct. 1038, 1046-47, 8 L.Ed.2d 240 (1962) and United States v. Debrow, 346 U.S. 374-78, 74 S.Ct. 113, 115-16, 98 L.Ed. 92 (1953)). The test for sufficiency is whether it is fair to require the accused to defend himself on the basis of the c......
  • United States v. Bally Manufacturing Corporation
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana
    • June 21, 1972
    ...defense; and there is no possibility of their being again subjected to prosecution for the same offenses. United States v. Debrow, 346 U.S. 374, 376, 74 S.Ct. 113, 98 L.Ed. 92 (1953); Hagner v. United States, 285 U.S. 427, 431, 52 S.Ct. 417, 76 L.Ed. 861 (1932). The motions that would have ......
  • United States v. Garrison
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana
    • August 4, 1972
    ...and enable them to plead the judgment in bar as a defense to any future prosecution on the same offense. United States v. Debrow, 346 U.S. 374, 376, 74 S.Ct. 113, 98 L.Ed. 92 (1953); Hagner v. United States, 285 U.S. 427, 431, 52 S.Ct. 417, 76 L.Ed. 861 (1932). I find that the indictment un......
  • United States v. Shorter
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • March 26, 1985
    ...590 (1974); Russell v. United States, 369 U.S. 749, 763-64, 82 S.Ct. 1038, 1046-47, 8 L.Ed.2d 240 (1962); United States v. Debrow, 346 U.S. 374, 74 S.Ct. 113, 98 L.Ed. 92 (1953); United States v. Haldeman, 559 F.2d 31, 123-26 (D.C.Cir.1976); United States v. Conlon, 628 F.2d 150, 156 (D.C.C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 books & journal articles
  • PERJURY
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review No. 58-3, July 2021
    • July 1, 2021
    ...that subscription to a false statement in a habeas corpus petition was suff‌icient for a charge of perjury); United States v. Debrow, 346 U.S. 374, 376–77 (1953) (holding that testimony given subsequent to an oath before a Senate subcommittee was subject to a perjury charge). 43. See United......
  • Perjury
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review No. 60-3, July 2023
    • July 1, 2023
    ...1984) (holding subscription to a false statement in a habeas corpus petition suff‌icient for a perjury charge); United States v. Debrow, 346 U.S. 374, 376–77 (1953) (holding testimony given subsequent to an oath before a Senate subcommittee is subject to a perjury charge). 1132 AMERICAN CRI......
  • Perjury
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review No. 59-3, July 2022
    • July 1, 2022
    ...(stating that being under oath is an essential element of a § 1623 offense). 43. 18 U.S.C. § 1621; see, e.g. , United States v. Debrow, 346 U.S. 374, 376–77 (1953) (holding that testimony given subsequent to an oath before a Senate subcommittee was subject to a perjury charge); Yoshida , 72......
  • Perjury.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 45 No. 2, March 2008
    • March 22, 2008
    ...subscription to false statement in habeas corpus petition is sufficient for charge of perjury). See generally United States v. Debrow, 346 U.S. 374, 376-77 (1953) (holding that testimony given subsequent to an oath authorized by law is subject to perjury (40.) United States v. Morehead, 243......
  • 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