EX PARTE SPENCER, 228 U. S. 652 (1913)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ex parte Spencer, 228 U.S. 652 (1913)

Ex parte Spencer

Nos. 16, 17, 18, Original

Argued April 28, 1913

Decided May 26, 1913

228 U.S. 652


It is only in exceptional cases that this Court will interfere by habeas corpus with the course, or final administration, of the criminal justice of the states by their respective courts, Urquhart v. Brown, 205 U. S. 179, and this rule applies as well after, as before, sentence.

Justice is satisfied by the opportunity given to defendants accused of and tried for crime in the state courts to set up their federal rights in those courts, and the course of criminal justice will not be deranged and possibly defeated by permitting the defenses based on such rights to be raised for the first time by habeas corpus in the federal courts after sentence in the state court.

The writ of habeas corpus is not to be used as a writ of error.

Page 228 U. S. 653

Where, as in Pennsylvania, the judgment of the trial court in criminal cases is subject to modification, as well as affirmance or reversal, by the appellate court, and a sentence partly legal and partly illegal under the state law can be modified by striking therefrom the illegal part, such sentence is erroneous, and not void; this Court will not, therefore, on habeas corpus, pass upon the question of legality of the part of the sentence complained of. The proper procedure is to review the judgment on appeal. Ex Parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163, distinguished.

It is not the duty of this Court to anticipate the decision of the state court as to the effect of one state statute upon an earlier one, or to declare which of two rules supported by conflicting decisions the state court will apply.

The facts, which involve the jurisdiction and practice of this Court in regard to issuing writs of habeas corpus in cases where the petitioners have been sentenced in the state courts, are stated in the opinion.

Page 228 U. S. 656

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