MACKIN V. UNITED STATES, 117 U. S. 348 (1886)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mackin v. United States, 117 U.S. 348 (1886)

Mackin v. United States

Argued March 2-3, 1886

Decided March 22, 1886

117 U.S. 348


A crime punishable by imprisonment in a state prison or penitentiary, with or without hard labor, is an infamous crime within the provision of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution that "No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury."

This was an information filed by the district attorney, on January 20, 1885, in the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois, on § 5440 of the Revised Statutes, which is as follows:

"If two or more persons conspire either to commit any

Page 117 U. S. 349

offense against the United States or to defraud the United States in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such parties do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, all the parties to such conspiracy shall be liable to a penalty of not less than one thousand dollars and not more than ten thousand dollars, and to imprisonment not more than two years."

The information contained seven counts, which were respectively for conspiracies to commit offenses within §§ 5512, 5511, and 5403. The substance of the offense, as alleged in different forms in the various counts, was the breaking open of a package containing a return, by the judges and clerks of election, of an election held in a district of the City of Chicago to choose a representative in Congress and certain state and county officers, the alteration of the certificate of the result of the election, the poll-book, the tally list of the votes cast for each candidate, and a large number of the ballots, and the substitution of spurious papers in their stead.

In the district court, the defendants were tried by a jury and convicted, and on March 21, 1885, were sentenced to pay a fine of $5,000 each, and to be imprisoned for two years in the penitentiary of the State of Illinois at Joliet, in said district.

A writ of error was sued out by the defendants, returnable at May term, 1885, of the circuit court. At the hearing in that court, the two judges presiding were divided in opinion upon five questions of law, and at the request of the counsel for both parties, certified to this Court those questions, two of which were as follows:

"1. Whether the crimes, or any of them, charged against the defendants in the counts of the information are infamous crimes, within the meaning of the Fifth Article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

"2. Whether the defendants can or not be held to answer in the courts of the United States for the crimes charged, or any of them, against them herein otherwise than on the presentment or indictment of a grand jury."

The other questions certified related to the sufficiency of the several counts as setting forth any offense, and need not be particularly stated.

Page 117 U. S. 350

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