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UNITED STATES v. RUSSELL

February 28, 1921

UNITED STATES
v.
RUSSELL



ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS

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

Author: Mckenna

[ 255 U.S. Page 140]

 MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the court.

Review of an indictment in two counts for violation of ยง 135 of the Criminal Code of the United States, which provides as follows:

"Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, shall endeavor to influence, intimidate, or impede any witness, in any court of the United States or before any United States commissioner or officer acting as such commissioner, or any grand or petit juror, or officer in or of any court of the United States, or officer who may be serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States commissioner or officer acting as such commissioner, in the discharge of his duty, or who corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or threatening communication, shall influence, obstruct, or impede, or endeavor to influence, obstruct, or impede the due administration of justice therein, shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

[ 255 U.S. Page 141]

     The Government does not press the case on count two. It is only necessary, therefore, to consider count one. It charges defendant with unlawfully and corruptly endeavoring to influence one William D. Russell, who, he well knew, was a petit juror in the court in the discharge of his, the juror's, duty, and who he knew had been summoned as a petit juror on April 3, 1918, at which time the trial of William D. Haywood and others was to begin. The manner of the execution of the violation of the section, the indictment details as follows: "Endeavoring to ascertain in advance of the examination of said William D. Russell in said court as to his qualifications to sit as a petit juror at said trial whether said William D. Russell was favorably inclined towards said William D. Haywood and his co-defendants, and corruptly to induce said William D. Russell to favor the acquittal of said William D. Haywood and his co-defendants in case he should be selected as a petit juror at said trial, said L. C. Russell, on said April 1, 1918, called at the home of said William D. Russell at No. 604 West Thirty-first Street, in said city of Chicago, and engaged Lucy Russell, wife of said William D. Russell, in a conversation, in the course of which said L. C. Russell told said Lucy Russell that he represented said William D. Haywood and his co-defendants and requested her to question her husband as to his attitude towards said William D. Haywood and his co-defendants in the matter of the charges contained in said indictment and report the result of such questioning to him, the said L. C. Russell, because, as said L. C. Russell then and there stated to said Lucy Russell, they (meaning said William D. Haywood and his co-defendants) did not want to pay money to any of the petit jurors sitting at the trial of said case unless they knew such petit jurors would favor their acquittal; by means of which request and statement said L. C. Russell conveyed to Lucy Russell, and endeavored to convey to said William

[ 255 U.S. Page 142]

     D. Russell, an offer to pay money to said William D. Russell in return for his favoring such acquittal;. . . ."

Defendant demurred to the indictment on the ground that it did not appear therefrom by any sufficient averment or recital of "jurisdictional facts that any cause involving any issue of fact triable by a jury was, at the time in said indictment mentioned, pending in the District Court of the United States, or any other court, whereby the above named United States District Court does or could acquire jurisdiction in the premises."

The enumeration of the deficiencies of the indictment may be summarized as follows: It did not appear that William D. Russell possessed the qualifications to act as a juror; or had been duly and regularly drawn and summoned; or had been examined and accepted as a juror at the array; it cannot be ascertained at what time and place the alleged conversation was had; or at what time Lucy Russell received the impression of the meaning of the conversation; or that she had access to her husband or had opportunity, or could have communicated the conversation to him; or that defendant knew she had such opportunity; or that William D. Russell was a juror in any particular case.

The demurrer was sustained and the indictment dismissed. This writ of error was then allowed.

Necessarily, the first impression of the case is that defendant had some purpose in his approach to Lucy Russell and in the proposition he made to her. What was it, and how far did he execute it? Counsel admits that defendant's purpose was to "find out what his [L. C. Russell's] attitude was towards the defendants" to be tried. And that this (we are stating the effect of counsel's contention) was only in preparation of a sinister ...


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