Walter Dimmick v. John Tompkins

Citation194 U.S. 540,24 S.Ct. 780,48 L.Ed. 1110
Decision Date31 May 1904
Docket NumberNo. 528,528
PartiesWALTER N. DIMMICK, Appt. , v. JOHN W. TOMPKINS, Warden of the State Prison of the State of California, at San Quentin
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Dimmick, the appellant, presented his petition for a writ of habeas corpus to the circuit court of the United States, northern district of California. The petition was denied, and an appeal taken to this court from the order denying the application. The appellant alleged in his petition for the writ that he was unlawfully imprisoned in the state prison of the state of California; that the imprisonment was illegal and in contravention of the Constitution of the United States, article five of the amendments to the same; that on October 16, 1901, he was sentenced to imprisonment in the state prison on by the district court of the United States in and for the northern district of California for the period of two years, to date from the 16th day of October, 1901; that he had been imprisoned, under the judgment, in the state prison ever since April 13, 1903, and that prior thereto, and from the date of the judgment to April 13, 1903, he was imprisoned, under said judgment, in the county jail of the county of Alameda, by the order of the district court.

The appellant also alleged that, notwithstanding the foregoing facts, the warden refused to discharge or release him from imprisonment, although the term of said imprisonment expired, according to its terms, on October 16, 1903. The appellant then set forth in the petition a copy of the record of the proceedings of the district court of the United States, which showed that he was convicted in the district court on the 16th of October, 1901, of making and presenting a false claim, as charged in the first count of the indictment, and of using a portion of the public moneys of the United States for a purpose not prescribed by law, as charged in the fourth count; and that he was sentenced 'to be imprisoned at hard labor for the term of two years from October 16, 1901; and it is further ordered that said sentence of imprisonment be executed upon the said Walter N. Dimmick by imprisonment in the state prison of the state of California, at San Quentin, Marin county, California.'

The record was signed by the district judge who held the court.

The petition also set forth a copy of the indictment under which the trial was had. It was founded upon §§ 5438 and 5497 of the United States Revised Statutes (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, pp. 3674, 3707), and charged, in substance, the presentation to the cashier of the mint at San Francisco of a certain false, fictitious, and fraudulent claim against the United States, and known to be fraudulent by the defendant at the time he presented it; also, with having unlawfully used a portion of the public moneys for a purpose not prescribed by law. The appellant averred that neither the first nor the fourth count charged any crime or public offense against the United States, nor the violation of any law of the United States, and that both counts were fatally defective. The appellant also averred that the judgment of the court, in as far as it required his imprisonment in the state prison, was void because the United States district court sentenced him for one year, and no more, upon each of the two counts of the indictment referred to in the judgment, and did not sentence him to imprisonment for a period of more than one year upon each of said counts, and that a sentence to the state prison for a period of not more than one year violated the statutes of the United States.

Mr. George D. Collins for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 542-544 intentionally omitted] Solicitor General Hoyt for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from Pages 544-546 intentionally omitted] Statement by Mr. Justice Peckham:

The appeal directly to this court from the decision of the circuit court denying the writ of habeas corpus was proper under the averments contained in the petition, that the imprisonment of the appellant was in violation of the Federal Constitution. Craemer v. Washington, 168 U. S. 124, 127, 42 L. ed. 407, 408, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1.

The appellant contends that, as his sentence was imprisonment 'at hard labor for the term of two years from October 16, 1901,' his term of imprisonment under that sentence necessarily expired by its own limitation on October 16, 1903, even without any deduction for credits earned by good behavior.

If the appellant had been at once transported to the state prison under the sentence imposed upon him after his conviction, it is, of course, plain that two years from the time of his sentence (if he remained there in the meantime) would be the extent of his legal detention. In fact, he was not taken to the state prison until April 13, 1903; but he avers that he had been previously, and from October 16, 1901, the date of the judgment, to April 13, 1903, imprisoned under said judgment in the county jail of the county of Alameda, by the order of said district court. The sentence upon the verdict of guilty is given in the record, which is made a part of the petition, and that record shows that the appellant was 'sentenced to be imprisoned at hard labor for the term of two years from October 16, 1901; and it is further ordered that said sentence of imprisonment be executed upon the said Walter N. Dimmick by imprisonment in the state prison of the state of California, at San Quentin, Marin county, California.'

The imprisonment of the appellant in the county jail could not, therefore, have been under the judgment which prescribes imprisonment in the state prison. But such detention may have been owing to his efforts to obtain a review and reversal of the judgment, and, in the meantime, a supersedeas thereon, so as to prevent his transportation to the state prison, and in that case such detention should not be counted as any part of the time of imprisonment in the state prison. In that event his imprisonment in the state prison, under the judgment, should be counted from the time it actually commenced, notwithstanding the statement of the sentence that it should be for two years from October 16, 1901. The time of commencement was postponed by his own action, and he cannot take advantage of it, and thus shorten the term of his imprisonment at hard labor in the state prison.

Upon this writ the question to be examined is one of jurisdiction; and in this case it is whether the warden of the prison has the legal right to continue the imprisonment under the sentence and warrant of commitment notwithstanding the expiration of two years from the time of sentence. If, as we have said, the detention in the jail was the result of his own action, and his imprisonment at hard labor in the state prison did not, for that reason, commence until April 13, 1903, then the legal term of his imprisonment in the state prison has not expired, and he is properly detained. As it was incumbent upon the appellant to show his continued imprisonment was illegal (there being no presumption that it was), the duty and the burden rested upon him to aver, and, if the averment were traversed, to prove, that his detention in jail had not been by reason of the fact suggested. This he has not done. There is no such averment in the petition for the writ and there is no proof of such fact to be found. Non constat, that he was not detained for the very reason already stated. This is fatal to the appellant, so far as this point is concerned.

As might be surmised, there was ample reason for not making the allegation. It would not have been true.

It appears from our own records that a petition for a certiorari was filed in this court by appellant February 2, 1903, asking for a review of the above-mentioned judgment, and in that petition it is stated that the appellant had teken proceedings to have the judgment reviewed by the circuit court of appeals, and had obtained a supersedeas thereon, and after the judgment had been affirmed by that court, and on January 13, 1903, the district court ordered the execution of the judgment thus affirmed to be stayed for the period of thirty days from that date to enable the appellant to make application to this court for a writ of certiorari, which application was made, and denied by this court March 2, 1903. 189 U. S. 509, 47 L. ed. 923, 23 Sup. Ct. Rep. 850. In a case like this the court has the right to examine its own records and take judicial notice thereof in regard to proceedings...

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