GOODE V. UNITED STATES, 159 U. S. 663 (1895)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Goode v. United States, 159 U.S. 663 (1895)

Goode v. United States

No. 616

Argued November 1, 1895

Decided November 25, 1895

159 U.S. 663


When a verdict is general upon all the counts in an indictment sufficient in form, it must stand if anyone of the counts was sustained by competent testimony.

In an indictment under Rev.Stat. § 5467, against a letter carrier charged with secreting, embezzling, or destroying a letter containing postage stamps, the fact that the letter was a decoy is no defense.

A letter addressed to a fictitious person, known to be such, is a letter within the meaning of the statute, and for the purposes of Rev.Stat. §§ 5467 and 5469, a letter which bears the outward semblance of a genuine communication, and comes into the possession of the employee in the

Page 159 U. S. 664

regular course of his official business is a writing or document within the meaning of the statute.

Where a general verdict of guilty is rendered, an objection taken to evidence admissible under one or a part of the counts is untenable.

The term "branch post office," as employed in those sections, includes every place within such office where letters are kept in the regular course of business for reception, stamping, assorting, or delivery.

It being shown in this case that the branch post office in which the offence was alleged to have been committed was known as the Roxbury station of the Boston post office, that it had been used as such for years, and that it was a post office de facto, it was unnecessary to show that it had been regularly established as such by law.

George Goode, a letter carrier, was indicted and convicted in the District Court for the district of Massachusetts for embezzlement and theft from the mail. The indictment contained seven counts, the first three of which charged a violation of Rev.Stat. § 5467, and the last four a violation of § 5469. The substance of these sections is printed in the margin. * The case was submitted to the jury under certain instructions, hereafter to be considered, who returned a verdict of guilty upon the whole indictment.

The facts of the case were substantially as follows:

Goode, the plaintiff in error, was a letter carrier employed in the branch post office at Roxbury, which had formerly been an independent post office, but is now known as the "Roxbury Station" of the Boston post office. Complaints having been

Page 159 U. S. 665

made of thefts from the mails at this office, Thomas J. Boynton, a post office inspector, prepared two decoy letters, one of which was addressed to Whitcomb, Keyes & Co., a firm of merchant tailors on Washington Street, in the Roxbury district, and was subsequently delivered to them in the regular course of business, and one addressed to John Muldoon, Esq., 153 Ziegler Street, Boston, Massachusetts, and postmarked West Cheshire, Connecticut.

Boynton in fact took an envelope containing that postmark, filled in the date, which was missing on the postmark, with type which he had in his office for that purpose, and cancelled the stamp with a canceler such as was used ordinarily in the smaller post offices. He enclosed in the letter two one-dollar silver certificates and five two-cent postage stamps, marked the postage stamps by means of pin holes, and gave the letter to one McGrath, who was assistant superintendent of the mailing division of the main post office in Boston, but who was stationed temporarily, by direction of the postmaster at the Roxbury office.

McGrath, when the letter carriers were out, called as witness the superintendent and person having charge of the branch post office, and in his presence put the letter into defendant's, Goode's, box. This was not the ordinary method of depositing the mail. Indeed, he passed by the places on the outside as well as the inside of the post office where letters are usually mailed, and went into the back room, where the letters, after

Page 159 U. S. 666

passing through the mails, are sorted. Goods returned from his route, took up all the letters in his box, and went to his desk, which was situated in the same room. His own route terminated at No. 51 Ziegler Street, and it was his duty to put this Ziegler Street letter into the box of the carrier whose route included the higher numbers of Ziegler Street, or to put it into what was known as the "list box." This list box was kept for the reception of any letter known as a "beat" or a "nixie;" that is, a letter addressed to a person not to be found in the district. On Goode's return from his route, the letter not being found in either of these boxes or elsewhere, he was searched, and the five marked postage stamps were found upon his person. It was shown that while absent on his route, he had the opportunity of disposing of the letter and the silver certificates therein contained. There were a large number of other letters in the box in which this Muldoon letter was put by McGrath. McGrath knew at the time that there was no such place as 153 Ziegler Street, and that there was no such person as John Muldoon. He put the letter in the box for the purpose of being able to identify its contents in case Goode embezzled them.

Goode was sentenced, upon conviction, to imprisonment at hard labor for three years, and thereupon sued out this writ of error.

Page 159 U. S. 668

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