HOWARD V. FLEMING, 191 U. S. 126 (1903)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Howard v. Fleming, 191 U.S. 126 (1903)

Howard v. Fleming

Nos. 44, 46

Argued October 27, 1903

Decided November 16, 1903

191 U.S. 126


The decision of the highest court of a state that conspiracy to defraud is a common law offense and as such cognizable in the courts of that state, although there be no statute defining or punishing such a crime, is not a federal question, nor reviewable by this Court. Nor can this Court inquire whether the indictment sufficiently charged the offense.

Undue leniency in one case does not transform a reasonable punishment in another case to a cruel one, and where the highest court of a state has sustained the sentences of ten years each, imposed on two men convicted with a third of a conspiracy to defraud, and such punishment does not from the record appear unreasonable considering the nature of the offense, this Court will not set aside the judgment as imposing a cruel and unusual punishment either on the facts or because the other person convicted was only sentenced to seven years.

This Court will not hold that the omission of the recital of reasons which justify the peculiar form of a sentence will invalidate a judgment which is warranted by the statute and which has been sustained by the highest court of the state.

When the highest court of the state has decided that, in a criminal trial, it is sufficient to charge the jury correctly in reference to reasonable doubt and that an omission to refer to any presumption of innocence does not invalidate the proceedings, such an omission cannot be regarded by this Court as a denial of due process of law.

Where no claim to protection under the federal constitution was presented to the supreme court of the state, a writ of error will not lie from this Court even though federal questions were discussed in the opinions of the state court.

At the June term, 1901, of the Superior Court of Guilford County, North Carolina, the three parties named as appellants in the first of these cases and as plaintiffs in error in the second were indicted, tried, and convicted of the crime of conspiracy.

Page 191 U. S. 127

Daly was sentenced to the penitentiary for seven years, and the other two for ten years each. All appealed to the supreme court of the state, by which court the judgment was affirmed, 129 N.C. 584, and thereupon the writ of error in the last case was issued. A writ of habeas corpus was also sued out from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of North Carolina, directed to the warden of the state prison, which, after hearing, was dismissed, and from such dismissal an appeal was taken to this Court, and that is the first of the above cases.

Page 191 U. S. 134

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