CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Fuller, Harlan, Brewer, Brown, White, Peckham, McKenna Holmes, Day
MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.
The respondents were indicted for conspiracy in the District Court of the District of Columbia on March 31, 1902. On April 4, 1902, Cadarr, Keating and Myers were arraigned and entered pleas of not guilty. On April 7, 1902, Parker entered a plea of not guilty; on May 1, 1902, he withdrew this plea and filed a motion to quash. The ground of this motion was that the indictment was not returned to the court within nine months from the twenty-fifth day of April, 1901, on which day the defendants were held to bail to await the action of the grand jury on the charge of conspiracy, the time for taking action in the case not having been extended by the court or any judge thereof, as provided in section 939 of the act to establish a code for the District of Columbia, approved March 3, 1901. The motion was sustained, and it was directed that Parker's bail be discharged, and all the defendants were allowed to go without day.
Upon appeal by the United States, the Court of Appeals affirmed this judgment. Thereupon this writ of certiorari was granted.
This case raises the question whether section 939 of the Code of the District of Columbia is intended to bar further prosecution of crimes and offenses where the grand jury has failed to act thereon within the period named in the statute, or whether
the failure to take such action is intended to and does end further prosecution so as to discharge the accused from bail or from imprisonment in cases of commitment. The District Court, whose judgment was sustained by the Court of Appeals, construed the statute as one of limitations, and held that failure to take action within the period limited was a final bar to further prosecution. The section directly involved is number 939 of the District of Columbia Code, and is as follows:
"SEC. 939. Abandonment of prosecution. -- If any person charged with a criminal offense shall have been committed or held to bail to await the action of the grand jury, and within nine months thereafter the grand jury shall not have taken action on the case, either by ignoring the charge or by returning an indictment into the proper court, the prosecution of such charge shall be deemed to have been abandoned and the accused shall be set free or his bail discharged, as the case may be: Provided, however, That the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, holding a special term as a criminal court, or, in vacation, any justice of said court, upon good cause shown in writing, and, when practicable, upon due notice to the accused, may from time to time enlarge the time for the taking action in such case by the grand jury." 31 Stat. 1189, 1342.
The general statute of limitations is in force in the District and is section 1044, Revised Statutes of the United States, which is as follows:
"No person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any offense, not capital, except as provided in section one thousand and forty-six, unless the indictment is found, or the information is instituted within three years next after such offense shall have been committed."
It is the contention of respondents' counsel that section 939 operates as a special statute of limitation for cases within its terms wherein the accused has been arrested and committed to prison or released on bail. On the other hand, the Government contends that it is not a statute of ...