CROWLEY V. UNITED STATES, 194 U. S. 461 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Crowley v. United States, 194 U.S. 461 (1904)

Crowley v. United States

No. 205

Submitted April 12, 1904

Decided May 31, 1904

194 U.S. 461


Where the accused contends in the District Court of the United States for the District of Porto Rico that, under the provisions of the Foraker Act of April 12, 1900, 31 Stat. 77, the qualifications of the grand jurors by whom he was indicted should have been controlled by the local law of January 31, 1901, and the court decides adversely, a right is claimed under a statute of the United States and denied, and under § 35 of the Foraker Act, this Court has jurisdiction on writ of error to review the judgment. Under § § 14 and 34 of the Foraker Act, providing that the District Court of the United States for the District of Porto Rico shall have jurisdiction in all cases cognizant in the Circuit Courts of the United States and shall proceed therein in the same manner as a Circuit Court, the provisions of § 800, Rev.Stat., apply to criminal prosecutions, and the court must recognize any valid existing local statute as to the qualification of jurors in the same manner as a Circuit Court of the United States is controlled in criminal prosecutions by the applicable statute of the state in which it is sitting.

The disqualification of a grand juror prescribed by statute is a matter of substance which cannot be regarded as a mere defect or imperfection within the meaning of § 1025, Rev.Stat.

Page 194 U. S. 462

After April 1, 1901, there was a local statute in Porto Rico regulating the qualifications of jurors, and the presence of persons on the grand jury of the District Court of the United States for the District of Porto Rico disqualified under that act and who were summoned to serve after the act took effect vitiates the indictment when the facts are seasonably brought to the attention of the court.

An objection by pleas in abatement, and before arraignment of the accused, to an indictment on the ground that some of the grand jurors were disqualified by law was in due time, and was made in a proper way.

Quaere, and not decided, whether the presence of jurors disqualified by the act, but summoned before it took effect, would affect an indictment found after the act took effect.

The plaintiff in error was indicted in the District Court of the United States for the District of Porto Rico, as constituted by the act of Congress of April 12, 1900, entitled "An Act Temporarily to Provide Revenues and a Civil government for Porto Rico, and for Other Purposes." 31 Stat. 85, c. 191.

The indictment was based upon certain sections of the Revised Statutes of the United States relating to crimes committed by persons employed in the postal service. Rev.Stat. §§ 5467, 5468, and 5469. The punishment for the offense here charged was imprisonment at hard labor for one year, and not exceeding five years.

After the return of the indictment, the accused filed a plea in abatement which questioned the competency of certain jurors who participated in the finding of the indictment.

As the action of the court on that plea constitutes the controlling question in the case, the plea is given in full, as follows:

"Now comes the defendant, Harold Crowley, and pleads in abatement to the indictment returned herein, and says that, on Monday, the 8th day of April, 1901, there appeared in this court at San Juan, it being the first day of said term, the following-named persons: Manuel Romero Haxthausen, Pedro Fernandez, Alex. Nones, John D. H. Luce, Antonio Blanco, Manuel Andino Pacheco, E. L. Arnold, Henry v. Dooley, J. Ramon Latimer, Miguel Olmedo, Ramon Gandie, Charles H. Post, numbering twelve in all, which said persons were then and there, by the direction of the court and the marshal,

Page 194 U. S. 463

placed in the jury box, to constitute the panel for the grand jury of this said April term, 1901, of this Court."

"Whereupon the court then ordered the marshal to summon other persons to fill up the panel of the said grand jury, and immediately the marshal of the court sent his deputy out of the court room and into the City of San Juan to summon other jurors for such grand jury. Within a few minutes thereafter, the marshal brought into court Frank Antonsanti (returned as Antonio Santi and Frank Santi, as appears by the minutes of this Court), Hugo Stern, and William Bowen, the said persons not having been then and there bystanders in the court. The said panel then being incomplete, the marshal placed W. H. Holt, Jr., in the box, he being at the time a bystander in said court."

"Defendant says that thereupon the grand jury was constituted from the persons above named, and, after being sworn, proceeded to render a true bill against the defendant, which said alleged true bill on indictment was, by the said grand jury, constituted as aforesaid, returned and presented to this Court on Wednesday, April tenth, 1901."

"Defendant says that, by an act of the Legislative Assembly of Porto Rico, which took effect January 31, 1901, it was provided (§ 3) that jurors shall have the following qualifications, among others:"

"1st. A male citizen of the United States or of Porto Rico, of the age of twenty-one years, and not more than sixty years, who shall have been a resident of the island one year, and of the district or county ninety days before being selected and returned."

"4th. Assessed on the last assessment roll of the district or county on property of the value of at least two hundred dollars, belonging to him."

"SEC. 4. A person is not competent to act as a juror (1st) who does not possess the qualifications prescribed by the preceding section -- which said provisions were in full force and effect at and before the time that all of the persons were summoned

Page 194 U. S. 464

and impaneled, and returned said indictment as aforesaid."

"That by the law of Porto Rico, as aforesaid, causes of challenge to jurors are and were at said time last above mentioned, a want of any of the qualifications prescribed by law to render a person a competent juror. Defendant [states] that Manuel Adino is, and was at the time above mentioned, a citizen of the Republic of Venezuela. That W. H. Holt, Jr., has not been a citizen of Porto Rico for one year prior to the dates and time above mentioned when said jury was so summoned, impaneled, and returned, and when said alleged indictment was returned."

"Defendant says that at the same time last above mentioned the following persons, composing and constituting the said grand jury, were not assessed on the last assessment roll of any of the districts of Porto Rico on property of the value of $200, belonging to him: Antonio Blanco, Manuel Andino Pacheco, Miguel Olmedo, Charles H. Post Frank Antonsanti, or Frank Santi, or Antonio Santi, W. H. Holt, Jr., William Bowen."

"Defendant further says that the following persons, composing and constituting said grand jury, were not at the time above mentioned, publicly drawn from the box, containing at the time of each drawing the names of not less than three hundred persons, possessing the qualifications prescribed in section 800 of the Revised Statutes, and which said names (hereinafter set out) had not been placed therein by the clerk of this court and a jury commissioner, as provided by Act of June 30, 1879."

"Such persons whose names were not in said box and selected and summoned in the manner as aforesaid at the dates and times aforesaid were Hugo Stern, W. H. Holt, Jr., Frank Antonsanti, alias Frank Santi, alias Antonio Santi, William Bowen."

"Defendant says that no writs of venire facias were directed by the court against the said last above named persons from

Page 194 U. S. 465

the clerk's office, signed by the clerk or his deputy, nor returned in the manner provided by Revised Statutes, § 803. Defendant says that he was not present in court at the time of the selection, summoning, and impaneling of the jury aforesaid, and has had no opportunity to make any challenges to the same as the members thereof, because he did not know of said action, and was not at the time represented by counsel, but that he has this day learned of the aforesaid acts for the first time, and therefore immediately presents this plea."

"Defendant says that he has been and would be greatly prejudiced by the improper and illegal selection and impaneling of such grand jury as aforesaid, as it was composed at the time aforesaid of persons disqualified to act, and who were not residents or taxpayers of Porto Rico, as required by law, and because of their unfamiliarities with the island and the conditions and circumstances, material matters in this case, and relevant thereto, some of said jurors as aforesaid having been but a few months in the island, and temporarily sojourning herein."

"In addition to W. H. Holt, Jr., and William Baun, the following gentlemen of the grand jury were American citizens: John D. H. Luce, E. L. Arnold, Henry W. Dooly, J. Ramon Latimer, foreman thereof, Charles H. Post, Frank Antonsanti; by reason of which and their supposed knowledge of such practices by grand juries in the courts of the United States, might, and, as defendant believes, did, contend the deliberations of said jury so as to induce a finding of indictment where the Porto Rican citizens thereof might not have otherwise done."

The United States demurred to the plea upon the ground that the matters set forth in it, so far as they controlled or were applicable to the summoning and impaneling of a grand jury in the court below, disclosed no illegality therein, and constituted no reason why the accused should not be required to plead to the indictment.

The demurrer to the plea was sustained, and the plea overruled. The defendant then demurred to the indictment, and, the demurrer being overruled, he pleaded to the jurisdiction

Page 194 U. S. 466

of the court upon the ground that it had no authority to proceed at its then special term, but could only proceed at a regular term. That plea was also overruled. The accused was then arraigned and pleaded not guilty, and a trial was had, resulting in a verdict of guilty, and a sentence to four years' imprisonment in the penitentiary.

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