Cook v. United States
138 U.S. 157 (1891)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cook v. United States, 138 U.S. 157 (1891)

Cook v. United States

No. 1311

Argued December 11-12, 1890

Decided January 28, 1891

138 U.S. 157




By the Act of March 1, 1889, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333, "to establish a United States court in the Indian Territory, and for other purposes," the strip of public land lying south of Kansas and Colorado, and between the one hundredth and the one hundred and third meridians, and known as No Man's Land, was brought within the jurisdiction of the court for the Indian Territory so established, and was attached for limited judicial purposes to the Eastern District of Texas.

The history of and the legislation concerning the Indian Territory considered and reviewed.

By the Act of March 1, 1889, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333, the intention of Congress to confer upon the Circuit Court of the United States in the Eastern District of Texas power to try defendants for the offense of murder committed before its passage, where no prosecution had been commenced, was so clearly expressed as to take it out of the well settled rule that a statute should not be interpreted to have a retroactive operation where vested rights are injuriously affected by it, and it must be construed as operating retroactively.

The provision in Article 3 of the Constitution of the United States as to crimes "not committed within any state" that "the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed" imposes no restriction as to the place of trial except that the trial cannot occur until Congress designates the place, and may occur at any place which shall have been designated by Congress previous to the trial, and it is not infringed by the provision in the Act of March 1, 1889, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333, conferring jurisdiction upon the Circuit Court in the Eastern District of Texas to try defendants for the offense of murder committed before its passage.

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, providing for the trial in criminal prosecutions by a jury "of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law," has reference only to offenses against the United States committed within a state, and is not infringed by the Act of March 1, 1889, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333.

The Act of March 1, 1859, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333, although it subjects persons charged with murder committed in a place under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, but not within any state, to trial in a judicial district different from the one in which they might have been tried at

Page 138 U. S. 158

the time the offense was committed, is not repugnant to Art. I, Sec. 9 of the Constitution of the United States as an ex post facto law, since an ex post facto law does not involve, in any of its definitions, a change of the place of trial of an alleged offense after its commission.

The Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Texas, held at Paris, in that district at the October Term, in 1589, had jurisdiction of an indictment for murder charged to have been committed in the country known as "No Man's Land" July 25, 1888.

The Attorney General having by his brief confessed, as it was his duty to do, that there was error in an important ruling in the court below entitling the defendants to a reversal, this Court reverses the judgment of that court and remands the case for a new trial.

There was, in July, 1888, a parallelogram of unorganized public land extending from the 100th meridian on the east to the 103d on the west, and from latitude 36

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