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United States v. O'Brien

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT


February 1, 1940

UNITED STATES EX REL. LAIRD
v.
O'BRIEN, SHERIFF.

Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division; William H. Holly, Judge.

Author: Treanor

Before EVANS, SPARKS, and TREANOR, Circuit Judges.

TREANOR, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal by petitioner-appellant from a judgment of the District Court quashing a writ of habeas corpus and remanding the petitioner to the Cook County Jail to complete the sentences imposed by the Criminal Court of Cook County.

The petitioner pleaded guilty to each of three separate and distinct charges of larceny, each charge of larceny being presented in an indictement which also charged burglary. The indictments were numbered 38-910, 38-911 and 38-912 and the cases were docketed under the indictment numbers respectively. After the pleas of guilty the petitioner was found guilty of larceny and in each case was sentenced to a term of one year in the County Jail of Cook County and fined one ($1) dollar. Judgments in the three cases wee entered on the same date and the Sheriff of Cook County has had custody of the petitioner since such date.

The record of the Criminal Court of Cook County shows the judgment in cause No. 38-910 was entered in regular form and provided that the defendant, petitioner-appellant here, be confined in the Cook County Jail for the term of one year and pay a find of one ($1) dollar. The judgment in cause No. 38-911 contains the following recital: "It is further ordered by the Court that the said imprisonment shall begin at the expiration of the sentence of imprisonment of the said Garland Laird this day entered in cause No. 38-910 on the docket of this Court being the People of the State of Illinois v. Garland Laird in the cause for Larceny value of property $14.00 at the present term of this Court."

And in cause No. 38-912 the judgment contains this recital: "It is further ordered by the Court that the said imprisonment shall begin at the expiration of the sentence of imprisonment of the said Garland Laird this day entered in cause No. 38-911 on the docket of this Court being the People of the State of Illinois v. Garland Larid in the cause for Larceny value of property $14.00 at the present term of this Court."

The petitioner-appellant has served his sentence in cause No. 38-910 and by his petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court seeks to be released on the ground that the judgments and sentences in causes Nos. 38-911 and 38-912 are so vague and indefinite that they are void, with the result that petitioner, a citizen of the United States of America, is being held in prison in denial of due process and equal protection of the law as guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution U.S.C.A.

In the case of People v. Elliott,*fn1 judgments had been entered against the defendants on different counts, and on appeal objection was made to the sentences on the ground that the term of imprisonment on each count should have been so fixed that the imprisonment on he several counts should hae commenced at the expiration of each succeeding term. The sentence as to he imprisonment of each defendant was that he should be confined in the county jail for a period of ten days on each of the first seventy counts and a period of twenty days on he last or seventy-first count and that the jail sentences should run consecutively, making a total of 720 days in jail. In reviewing defendants' contention the Supreme Court of Illinois stated the rule to be as follows: "The rule established by this court is that where a defendant is sentenced upon different indictments or different counts of the same indictment, the correct method of entering judgment is not for the total time in gross, but for a specified time under each count, the time under the second to commence when the first ends, and so on to the last. * * * The provision that the sentences shall run consecutively is equivalent to providing that they shall run successively, but the rule heretofore stated is that it shall be expressly stated in the sentence that one shall begin at the expiration of the previous one."

The Supreme Court, however, stated that it ws beyond question that trial court intended to sentence each of the defendants to imprisonment in the county jail for separate terms of ten days on each of the first seventy counts and twenty days on the seventy-first count; and the court held that "as there was no error except in the imposition of the sentence, the cause should be remanded for a proper sentence * * * ." And the foregoing rule governing the form of sentences was repeated in People v. Rettich.*fn2

The form of the sentences and judgments used by the Cook County Criminal Court conforms literally to the requirements announced by the Supreme Court of Illinois, But if there had been any variation from the proper form the petitioner's remedy was by writ of error to a state reviewing court, and the only relief that he could have obtained under the law of Illinois was a remanding of the cause for proper sentence. But no relief was sought in a state court by a writ of error, although petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Illinois. That court dismissed his petition, presumably, on the ground that the sentence and judgment were not objectionable in form.

Petitioner does not urge tha the rule governing the form of sentences violates any right of petitioner under the fourteenth amendment; and obviously such a contention would be baseless.

We are of the opinion that under the rule declared by the Supreme Court of Illinois the form of the sentences and judgments in causes Nos. 38-911 and 38-912 (supra) validly designated the terms of imprisonment as successive, and we conclude that there is no merit in petitioner's contention that he is being held in prison in violation of his rights under the Constitution and laws of the United States.

The District Court did not err in quashing the writ of habeas corpus and remanding the petitioner to the Cook County Jail to complete the sentences imposed by the Criminal Court of Cook County, Illinois.

The judgment of the District Court is affirmed.


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