QUERCIA V. UNITED STATES, 289 U. S. 466 (1933)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Quercia v. United States, 289 U.S. 466 (1933)

Quercia v. United States

No. 701

Argued May 9, 1933

Decided May 29, 1933

289 U.S. 466


1. The right of a trial judge in a federal court to comment upon the evidence and express his opinion of it, while making clear to the jury that they are not bound by his opinion and that all matters of fact are submitted to their determination, is an essential common law prerogative maintained by the Constitution. P. 289 U. S. 469.

2. This privilege, however, does not permit the judge to distort or add to the evidence, and, because of his great influence on the jury, he must use great care to be fair and not mislead, and must studiously avoid deductions and theories not warranted by evidence. P. 289 U. S. 470.

3. It is important that hostile comment of the judge in a criminal case should not render vain the privilege of the accused to testify in his own behalf. P. 289 U. S. 470.

4. The court charged the jury:

"And now I am going to tell you what I think of the defendant's testimony. You may have noticed, Mr. Foreman and gentlemen, that he wiped his hands during his testimony. It is a rather curious thing, but that is almost always an indication of lying. Why it should be so, we don't know, but that is the fact. I think that every single word that man said, except when he agreed with the Government's testimony, was a lie. "

Page 289 U. S. 467

Held error, and not cured by a warning that the judge's opinion of the evidence was not binding on the jury and that, if they did not agree with it, they should find the defendant not guilty.

62 F.2d 746 reversed.

Certiorari to review the affirmance of a sentence under the Federal Narcotics Act.

Page 289 U. S. 468

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