ROGERS V. PECK, 199 U. S. 425 (1905)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Rogers v. Peck, 199 U.S. 425 (1905)

Rogers v. Peck

No. 368

Argued November 6, 1905

Decided November 27, 1905

199 U.S. 425


The Governor of Vermont has ample power to grant reprieves to persons sentenced to death for murder.

It is only where fundamental rights specially secured by the federal Constitution are invaded that the federal courts will interfere with a state in the administration of its law for the prosecution of crime, and it will not be presumed that, if the freedom of a person properly convicted of murder and sentenced to death is improperly restricted, that the state authorities will not afford the necessary relief.

Federal courts will not, by writs of habeas corpus, reverse the proceedings of state courts while acting within their jurisdiction under statutes which

Page 199 U. S. 426

do not conflict with the federal Constitution, and the decision of the state court that it is not necessary for the court to refix the day for execution of a person already sentenced by the court and reprieved by the Governor, where the reprieve definitely sets the day, is one wholly within state practice, and is not controlled by federal Constitution or laws.

Due process of law, guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, does not require the state to adopt a particular form of procedure, so long as the accused has had sufficient notice and adequate opportunity to defend himself in the prosecution, and the state may determine, free from federal interference or control, in what courts crime may be prosecuted and by what courts the prosecutions may be reviewed.

Statutes should be given a reasonable construction with a view to make effectual the legislative intent, and the granting by the Governor of a reprieve to a person sentenced to death in order that an appeal may be heard in this Court from an order of the district court dismissing a petition in habeas corpus proceedings is not such an interference by state authorities in a proceeding in the federal courts in violation of § 766, Rev.Stat., as will make the subsequent confinement and execution of the prisoner a deprivation of liberty or life without due process of law.

The appellant, Mary Mabel Rogers, having been convicted and sentenced in the County Court of Bennington, in the State of Vermont, of the crime of murder in the first degree, filed her petition on June 19, 1905, for a writ of habeas corpus against the sheriff and superintendent of the state prison in the District Court of the United States for the District of Vermont. The petition, having been heard, was denied on June 22, 1905. From that order, an appeal was taken to this Court.

The conviction of appellant was had at the December term, 1903, of the Bennington County Court, and she was sentenced to be confined at hard labor in the State Prison at Windsor until the third day of November, 1904, and on and after that day to be kept in solitary confinement until February 3, 1905, on which day she should suffer the penalty of death by hanging. On the first day of February, 1905, the Governor of the State of Vermont reprieved the execution of sentence until June 2, 1905. On April 29, 1905, the appellant presented a petition for a new trial to two judges of the Supreme Court of Vermont. On May 5, 1905, the judges made an order allowing the petition for new trial to be filed, and fixed May 10 for the hearing

Page 199 U. S. 427

thereof. After hearing before the supreme court, sitting at Montpelier, Washington County, on May 30, an order was made dismissing the petition, and refusing the new trial. Rogers v. State, 77 Vt. 454. On June 1, 1905, the execution of sentence was further reprieved by the Governor until June 23, 1905. Thereupon appellant filed her petition in the federal court for the writ of habeas corpus, which was dismissed, as heretofore stated. On the date of the dismissal of her petition (June 22, 1905), the Governor further reprieved the execution of the sentence until December 8, 1905. The appeal to this Court was allowed on June 22, 1905. The petitioner (appellant) averred that, by the various proceedings in the state courts and her incarceration in the prison in solitary confinement, she has been restrained of her liberty and is about to be executed without due process of law, guaranteed for her protection by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Page 199 U. S. 431

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