BARTELL V. UNITED STATES, 227 U. S. 427 (1913)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bartell v. United States, 227 U.S. 427 (1913)

Bartell v. United States

No. 691

Argued January 14, 1913

Decided February 24, 1913

227 U.S. 427


An indictment, to be good under the Constitution and laws of the United States, must advise the accused of the nature and cause of the accusation sufficiently to enable him to meet the accusation and prepare for trial and so that, after judgment, he may he able to plead the record and judgment in bar of further prosecution for the same offense.

While ordinarily documents essential to the charge of crime must be sufficiently described to make known the contents thereof, matter too obscene or indecent to be spread on the record may be referred to in a manner sufficient to identify it and advise the accused of the document intended without setting forth its contents, and so held as to an indictment under § 3893 Rev.Stat. for sending obscene matter through the mails.

The accused may demand a bill of particulars if the reference in the indictment to a letter too obscene to be published does not sufficiently identify it, and, in the absence of such demand, a detailed reference is sufficient.

The accused is entitled to resort to parol evidence on a prosecution for sending obscene matter through the mail to show that the letter on which the indictment is based had been the subject matter of a former prosecution, and therefore if the letter is too obscene to be spread on the record, it is sufficient if a reference is made thereto in such detail that it may be identified.

The facts, which involve the construction of § 3893, Rev.Stat., and the validity of an indictment and conviction thereunder for depositing obscene matter in a post office of the United States, are stated in the opinion.

Page 227 U. S. 430

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