THOMPSON V. UNITED STATES, 155 U. S. 271 (1894)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Thompson v. United States, 155 U.S. 271 (1894)

Thompson v. United States

No. 687

Submitted October 18, 1894

Decided December 8, 1894

155 U.S. 271


Courts of justice are invested with authority to discharge a jury from giving any verdict whenever in their opinion, taking all the circumstances into consideration, there is a manifest necessity for the act or the ends of public justice would otherwise be defeated, and to order a trial by another jury, and a defendant is not thereby twice put in jeopardy within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Sundry errors in the charge of the court below commented on, and Gourko v. United states, 153 U. S. 183 approved and applied to the issues in this case, viz.:

(1) A person who has an angry altercation with another person such as to lead him to believe that he may require the means of self-defense in case of another encounter may be justified in the eye of the law in arming himself for self-defense, and if, on meeting his adversary on a subsequent occasion, he kills him, but not in necessary self-defense, his crime may be that of manslaughter or murder, as the circumstances on the occasion of the killing make it the one or the other.

(2) If, looking alone at those circumstances, his crime be that of manslaughter, it is not converted into murder by reason of his having previously armed himself.

In the District Court of the United States for the Western District of Arkansas, on November 23, 1893, a jury was sworn to try the issue formed between the United States and Thomas Thompson under an indictment wherein said Thompson was charged with the murder of one Charles Hermes, and to which the accused pleaded not guilty.

After the case had been opened by counsel for the government and the defendant, respectively, and after Jacob Hermes, a witness for the government, had been called and examined in chief, the judge stated that it had come to his knowledge that one of the jurors was disqualified to sit on account of having been a member of the grand jury that returned the indictment in the case. The defendant, by his counsel, objected

Page 155 U. S. 272

to proceeding further in the trial of the cause with the said juror on account of his incompetency as aforesaid, whereupon the court ordered the discharge of the jury, and that another jury be called, to which action of the court the defendant, by his counsel at the time excepted.

On November 27, 1893, the defendant filed a plea of former jeopardy, and also a motion for a jury from the body of the district, and it appearing from an examination, in the presence of the defendant that a number of the regular panel of jurors were disqualified because of opinions formed after having heard part of the evidence, the court ordered the marshal to summon from the bystanders twenty-eight legal voters of the Western District of Arkansas, to be used as talesmen in making up a jury for the trial of the case. On December 1, a motion was filed on behalf of the defendant to quash that part of the panel of jurors consisting of twenty-eight men summoned from bystanders, which motion was overruled, and the petition of the defendant asking for a jury from the body of the district, drawn in the regular manner from the jury box by the jury commissioners, was refused. The government's attorney then moved that a jury be called for the trial. The defendant objected to the twelve men being called who had been theretofore impaneled for the trial of the cause, which objection the court sustained, and the clerk was ordered to omit in the call the names of said jurors.

Among the jurors called by the clerk were Wilson G. Gray, William M. Perkins, and Isaac B. Sloan, who were members of the regular panel for the present term of the court, and whose names were on the list of jurors served upon defendant at the beginning of the term, and before the first jury in this cause was impaneled, and when the first jury was impaneled, these three jurors were by the defendant peremptorily challenged. Their names were not upon the certified list of jurors last served upon the defendant after the first jury had been discharged. The challenge for cause made by defendant to these three jurors was overruled, whereupon the defendant peremptorily challenged them. The defendant likewise filed a written challenge for cause to the twenty-eight men called

Page 155 U. S. 273

as talesmen for the reasons that they did not belong to the regular panel of jurors, that they were not from the body of the district, but were all residents of the City of Fort Smith, in the immediate neighborhood of the place of trial. This challenge was overruled.

The jury was thereupon sworn, and the trial proceeded with, resulting in a verdict, under the instructions of the court, for the government in the issue formed by the plea of former jeopardy, and in a verdict that the defendant was guilty of murder as charged in the indictment.

Motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were overruled, and sentence of death was pronounced against the defendant.

Upon errors alleged in the proceedings of the court, and in the charge to the jury, a writ of error was sued out to this Court.

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