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November 24, 1919



White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Day

[ 251 U.S. Page 16]

 MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

Robert F. Stroud was indicted for the killing of Andrew Turner. The indictment embraced the elements constituting murder in the first degree. The homicide took place in the United States prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, where Stroud was a prisoner and Turner a guard. The record discloses that Stroud killed Turner by stabbing him with a knife which he carried concealed on his person.

Stroud was convicted in May, 1916, of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to be hanged. Upon confession of error by the United States District Attorney the Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this judgment. Stroud was

[ 251 U.S. Page 17]

     again tried at the May term, 1917, the jury in the verdict rendered found Stroud "guilty as charged in the indictment without capital punishment." Upon writ of error from this court the Solicitor General of the United States confessed error, and the judgment was reversed. The mandate commanded: "Such further proceedings be had in said cause, in conformity with the judgment of this court, as according to right and justice, and the laws of the United States ought to be had, the said writ of error notwithstanding." In pursuance of this mandate the District Court issued an order vacating the former sentence, and ordered a new trial. The trial was had, the jury found Stroud guilty of murder in the first degree as charged in the indictment, making no recommendation dispensing with capital punishment. Upon this verdict sentence of death was pronounced. This writ of error is prosecuted to reverse the judgment.

The case is brought directly to this court because of assignments of error alleged to involve the construction and application of the Constitution of the United States. The argument has taken a wide range. We shall dispose of such assignments of error as we deem necessary to consider in justice to the contentions raised in behalf of the plaintiff in error.

It is alleged that the last trial of the case had the effect to put the plaintiff in error twice in jeopardy for the same offense in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. From what has already been said it is apparent that the indictment was for murder in the first degree; a single count thereof fully described that offense. Each conviction was for the offense charged. It is true that upon the second trial the jury added "without capital punishment" to its verdict, and sentence of life imprisonment was imposed. This recommendation was because of the right of the jury so to do under § 330 of the Criminal Code, 35 Stat. 1152; 10 U.S. Comp Stats., § 10504.

[ 251 U.S. Page 18]

     This section permits the jury to add to the verdict, where the accused is found guilty of murder in the first degree, "without capital punishment," in which case the convicted person is to be sentenced to imprisonment for life. The fact that the jury may thus mitigate the punishment to imprisonment for life did not render the conviction less than one for first degree murder. Fitzpatrick v. United States, 178 U.S. 304, 307.

The protection afforded by the Constitution is against a second trial for the same offense. Ex parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163. Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100, and cases cited in the opinion. Each conviction was for murder as charged in the indictment which, as we have said, was murder in the first degree. In the last conviction the jury did not add the words "without capital punishment" to the verdict, although the court in its charge particularly called the attention of the jury to this statutory provision. In such case the court could do no less than inflict the death penalty. Moreover, the conviction and sentence upon the former trials were reversed upon writs of error sued out by the plaintiff in error. The only thing the appellate court could do was to award a new trial on finding error in the proceeding, thus the plaintiff in error himself invoked the action of the court which resulted in a further trial. In such cases he is not placed in second jeopardy within the meaning of the Constitution. Trono v. United States, 199 U.S. 521, 533.

It is insisted that the court erred in not granting a change of venue. The plaintiff in error made a motion in the trial court asking such an order. The chief grounds for the application appear to have been that the testimony for the Government in the former trials had been printed and commented upon by the local press; that the evidence published was only such as the Government had introduced, and its wide ...

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