Pointer v. United States
151 U.S. 396 (1894)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Pointer v. United States, 151 U.S. 396 (1894)

Pointer v. United States

No. 759

Submitted October 19, 1893

Decided January 22, 1894

151 U.S. 396

Syllabus

The provision in Rev.Stat. § 1024, that

"When there are several charges against any person for the same act or transaction, or for two or more acts or transactions connected together, or for two or more acts or transactions of the same class of crimes or offenses, which may be properly joined, instead of having several indictments, the whole may be joined in one indictment, in separate counts, and if two or more indictments are joined in such cases, the court may order them to be consolidated,"

leaves the court to determine whether, in a given case, a joinder of two or more offenses in one indictment is consistent with settled principles of criminal law, and also free to compel the prosecution to elect under which count it will proceed when it appears from the indictment or from the evidence that the prisoner may be embarrassed in his defense if that course be not pursued.

When an indictment contains two counts charging the commission of two murders committed on the same day in the same county and district and with the same kind of instrument, the court is justified in forbearing at the beginning of the trial, and before the disclosure of the facts, to compel an election by the prosecutor between the two charges.

When, in the case of such joinder, it is developed in the course of the trial that the accused was not confounded in his defense by the union of the two offenses in the same indictment, and that his substantial rights will not be prejudiced by the refusal of the court to compel the prosecutor to elect upon which of the two he will proceed, the court is justified in such refusal.

All the panel of jurors were examined as to their qualifications, and thirty-seven were found not liable to objection for cause. The defendant was

Page 151 U. S. 397

in court during this examination, was face to face with the jurors so examined, and had an opportunity to participate in the examination to such extent as was necessary for him to ascertain whether any of them were liable to objection for cause, and was at liberty to strike from the list of those thus found to be qualified the names of the persons, not exceeding twenty, whom he did not wish to serve on the jury. Held that the prisoner having been thus brought face to face with the jury during these proceedings, the proceedings were regular.

Lewis v. United States,146 U. S. 376, adhered to and distinguished from this case.

The mode of designating and empaneling jurors for the trial of cases in the courts of the United States is within the control of those courts, subject only to the restrictions prescribed by Congress, and to such limitations as are recognized by settled principles of criminal law to be essential in securing impartial juries for the trial of offenses.

A prisoner on trial in a federal court under indictment for murder is not entitled as of right to have the government make its peremptory challenges before he makes his, although it is within the discretion of the court to direct it, and when the laws of the state in which the trial takes place prescribe such a course, the court may pursue that method or not as it pleases.

It is not indispensable to conviction for murder that the particular motive for taking the life of a human being shall be established by proof to the satisfaction of the jury.

When the record in a criminal case shows fully the crime for which the prisoner was indicted and all the proceedings thereon, through trial and verdict up to conviction and sentence, the failure in the sentence to name the crime for which the prisoner is sentenced may be supplied by reference to the rest of the record.

Whether a court of the United States, in the absence of authority conferred by statute, has the power, after passing sentence in a criminal case, to suspend its execution indefinitely, and until the court in its discretion removes such suspension. quaere.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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