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decided: January 6, 1902.



Author: Fuller

[ 183 U.S. Page 380]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER delivered the opinion of the court.

In Carter v. Roberts, 177 U.S. 496, it was said: "The eighth section of article I of the Constitution provides that the Congress shall have power 'to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces,' and in the exercise of that power Congress has enacted rules for the regulation of the army known as the Articles of War. Rev. Stat. § 1342. Every officer, before he enters on the duties of his office, subscribes to these articles, and places himself within the power of courts martial to pass on any offence which he may have committed in contravention of them. Courts martial are lawful tribunals,

[ 183 U.S. Page 381]

     with authority to finally determine any case over which they have jurisdiction, and their proceedings, when confirmed as provided, are not open to review by the civil tribunals, except for the purpose of ascertaining whether the military court had jurisdiction of the person and subject matter, and whether, though having such jurisdiction, it had exceeded its powers in the sentence pronounced."

Jurisdiction over the person is conceded, but it is argued that there was no jurisdiction over the subject matter because the evidence affirmatively showed that no crime whatever had been committed. Whether the sentence of a military court, approved by the reviewing authority, is open to attack in the civil courts on such a ground, is a question which does not arise on this record. The motion to discharge conceded the return to be true, and if the return showed sufficient cause for detention, the Circuit Court was right in dismissing the writ, and its final order to that effect must be affirmed. No evidence was adduced in or considered by the Circuit Court, and none is before us, nor is any inquiry into the innocence or guilt of the accused permissible.

Was then the sentence void for want of power to pronounce and enforce it?

The particular ground on which the appeal directly to this court may be rested is that the case involved the construction or application of the Constitution in the contention that by the sentence petitioner was twice punished for the same offence.

That question was put forward in the petition and manifestly argued on the return. The Circuit Court states, in its opinion, that "it is contended in behalf of Carter that his imprisonment is in violation of the Constitution of the United States, and is otherwise illegal and without warrant of law." And, indeed, the application of the Constitution would seem to be necessarily involved if the sentence were held invalid on other grounds.

Holding the case to be properly before us, it will be more convenient to examine the constitutional point specially raised, after we have considered some of the other objections to the sentence.

One of these objections is that the sentence exceeded the

[ 183 U.S. Page 382]

     maximum punishment fixed by the President, under the act of Congress approved September 27, 1890, (26 Stat. 491, c. 998), because the term of imprisonment imposed was five instead of four years.

That act provides that "whenever by any of the articles of was for the government of the Army the punishment on conviction of any military offence is left to the discretion of the court martial the punishment therefor shall not, in time of peace, be in excess of a limit which the President may prescribe."

February 26, 1891, the President made an executive order in limitation of punishment, which was promulgated to the Army in General Orders No. 21, February 27, 1891, and therein it was said: "In accordance with an act of Congress of September 27, 1890, the following limits to the punishment of enlisted men, together with the accompanying regulations, are established for the government in time of peace for all courts martial and will take effect thirty days after this order." This executive order was amended by the President March 20, 1895, and again amended March 30, 1898, and in 1901. In neither of these executive orders were its provisions extended to commissioned officers, and they solely related to the cases of enlisted men. It is true that clause 938 of the army regulations promulgated October 31, 1895, provides: "Whenever by any of the articles of war punishment is left to the discretion of the court, it shall not, in time of peace, be in excess of a limite which the President may prescribe. The limits so prescribed are set forth in the Manual for Courts Martial, published by authority of the Secretary of War." But we do not find in the Manual any attempt to extend the limitations to others than enlisted men; and it is evident that a limit on discretion in punishment to be imposed by the President only can only have such operation as he may affirmatively prescribe.

It is further urged that the punishments of fine and imprisonment were illegal because inflicted after Captain Carter had ceased to be an officer of the Army.

The different provisions of the sentence took effect concurrently while the accused was under the control of the military authorities of the United States as a commissioned officer of

[ 183 U.S. Page 383]

     the Army. The date of the order of dismissal, of the infliction of the fine and of the beginning of the imprisonment were the same date.

The accused was proceeded against as an officer of the Army, and jurisdiction attached in respect of him as such, which included not only the power to hear and determine the case, but the power to execute and enforce the sentence of the law. Having being sentenced, his status was that of a military prisoner held by the authority of the United States as an offender against its laws.

He was a military prisoner though he had ceased to be a soldier; and for offences committed during his confinement he was liable to trial and punishment by court martial under the rules and articles of war. Rev. Stat. § 1361.

It may be added that the principle that where jurisdiction has attached it cannot be divested by mere subsequent change of status has been applied as justifying the trial and sentence of an enlisted man after expiration of the term of enlishtment, Barrett v. Hopkins, 7 Fed. Rep. 312; and the execution of sentence after the lapse of many years and the severance of all connection with the Army. Coleman v. Tennessee, 97 U.S. 509.

In the latter case this court held, at October term, 1878, that a soldier who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death by a general court martial in 1865, but whose sentence had not been executed, might "be delivered up to the military authorities of the United States, to be dealt with as required by law." In this matter it was subsequently advised by Attorney General Devens that the death sentence might legally be carried into effect notwithstanding the fact that the soldier had in the meantime been discharged from the service, under the circumstances detailed, but he recommended that the sentence be commuted, and this recommendation was followed. 16 Op. Att. Gen. 349.

In Ex parte Mason, 105 U.S. 696, where the accused was sentenced by a general court martial to dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay, and eight years' imprisonment in the Albany penitentiary, an application for release on habeas corpus was denied, and the sentence held to be legal.

[ 183 U.S. Page 384]

     Another objection strenuously insisted on is that the sentence ceased to be the sentence of the court martial because of the disapproval of certain specifications by the President.

The 65th article of those enacted by Congress, April 10, 1806, (2 Stat. 359, c. 20,) provided: "But no sentence of a court martial shall be carried into execution until after the whole proceedings shall have been laid before the officer ordering the same, or the officer commanding the troops for the time being." In the Revised Statutes this part of the 65th article of war was made section 104, and read: "No sentence of a court martial shall be carried into execution until the whole proceedings shall have been approved by the officer ordering the court, or by the officer commanding for the time being." By the act of July 27, 1892 (27 Stat. 277, c. 272,) the 104th section was amended so as to read: "No sentence of a court martial shall be carried into execution until the same shall have been approved by the officer ordering the court, or by the officer commanding for the time being."

The original article required the whole proceedings to be laid before the reviewing authority; the Revised Statutes, that the whole proceedings should be approved; the act of July 27, 1892, that the sentence should not be carried into execution until it was approved. From this legislation it appears that the approval of the sentence and not of the whole proceedings is now the prerequisite to carrying the sentence into execution, and this is in harmony with articles 105, 106, 107 and 108.

In Claassen v. United States, 142 U.S. 140, 146, it was said: "In criminal cases, the general rule, as stated by Lord Mansfield before the Declaration of Independence, is 'that if there is any one count to support the verdict, it shall stand good, notwithstanding all the rest are bad.' Peake v. Oldham, Cowper, 275, 276; Rex v. Benfield, 2 Bur. 980, 985. See also Grant v. Astle, 2 Doug. 722, 730. And it is settled law in this court, and in this country generally, that in any criminal case a general verdict and judgment on an indictment or information containing several counts cannot be reversed on error, if any one of the counts is good and warrants the judgment, because, in the absence of anything in the record to show the contrary, the presumption

[ 183 U.S. Page 385]

     of law is that the court awarded sentence on the good court only."

In Ballew v. United States, 160 U.S. 187, where the indictment embraced two counts, each setting up a distinct offence, the court instructed the jury that if they considered the defendant guilty on one count and innocent on the other, they should so find; and that if they found him guilty on both counts, that they should return a general verdict of guilty. A general verdict of guilty was returned, and judgment rendered thereon.

This court held that error had been committed in the conviction as to the first count but none in the conviction upon the other, and as the general verdict covered both, the judgment was reversed under the statute in that behalf and the cause remanded with instructions to enter judgment on the second count.

In Putnam v. United States, 162 U.S. 687, where there was a conviction on two counts and the sentence imposed was distinct and separate as to each count, but was made concurrent so that the entire amount of punishment imposed would be undergone if the judgment were sustained under either count, error being found in the conviction as to one of them, the judgment was reversed as to that count and affirmed on the other.

We are dealing here with no matter of insufficient counts or of conviction of two offences, sustainable only as to one, but the analogies of the criminal law bear out the procedure under the military law, the rules of which determine the present contention.

That contention, after all, amounts to no more than to say that if the court martial had acquitted on the disapproved findings, it must be assumed that the sentence would have been less severe, and therefore that the President should have sent the case back or mitigated the punishment, and that because he did not, the punishment must be conclusively regarded as increased. This is wholly inadmissible when the powers vested in the ultimate tribunal are considered.

The court martial for the trial of Captain Oberlin M. Carter was convened by orders issued by the President; and he was therefore the reviewing authority, and the court of last resort.

[ 183 U.S. Page 386]

     The law governing courts martial is found in the statutory enactments of Congress, particularly the Articles of War; in the Army Regulations; and in the customary military law. According to military usage and practice, the charge is in effect divided into two parts, the first technically called the "charge," and the second, the "specification." The charge proper designates the military offence of which the accused is alleged to be guilty. The specification sets forth the acts or omissions of the accused which form the legal constituents of the offence. The pleading need not possess the technical nicety of indictments as at common law. "Trials by courts martial are governed by the nature of the service, which demands intelligible precision of language but regards the substance of things rather than their form." 7 Op. Atty. Gen. 604. Not only do military usage and procedure permit of an indefinite number of offences being charged and adjudicated together in one and the same proceeding, but the rule is recognized that whenever an officer has been apparently guilty of several or many offences, whether of a similar character or distinct in their nature, charges and specifications covering them all should, if practicable, be preferred together, and together brought to trial. 1 Winthrop, 219; 22 Op. Atty. Gen. 595. And it has been repeatedly ruled by the Judges Advocate General that "a duly approved finding of guilty on one of several charges, a conviction upon which requires or authorizes the sentence adjudged, will give validity and effect to such sentence, although the similar findings on all the other charges are disapproved as not warranted by the testimony." Dig. Op. Judge Advocate General, ed. 1895, p. 696; Id. ed. 1868, pp. 343, 350.

The sentence against Captain Carter was rendered on findings of guilty of four charges and certain ...

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