United States v. Pridgeon
153 U.S. 48 (1894)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Pridgeon, 153 U.S. 48 (1894)

United States v. Pridgeon

No. 1070

Submitted March 13, 1891

Decided April 18, 1894

153 U.S. 48

CERTIFICATE FROM THE UNITED STATES CIRCUIT

COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

On November 12, 1890, in the Indian Country, within the boundaries of Oklahoma Territory, as defined by the Act of May 2, 1890, c. 182, 26 Stat. 81, horse stealing was not a crime against the United States punishable under the Act of February 15, 1888, c. 10, 25 Stat. 33, but as to the Cherokee Outlet it remained Indian Country after the passage of the Act of Way 2, 1890, and such an offense, committed there, continued to be an offense against the United States.

An indictment in the District Court of the United States within and for Logan County in Oklahoma Territory, and for the Indian Country attached thereto, charging the commission of the offense of horse stealing in November, 1890, and laying the venue of the offense "at and within that

Page 153 U. S. 49

part of the Territory of Oklahoma attached for judicial purposes to Logan County," with a description of territory, which included part of Oklahoma and part of the Cherokee Outlet not in Oklahoma, and which averred the same to be "then and there Indian Country, and a place then and there under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States of America," will not be held to be fatally defective when attacked collaterally by writ of habeas corpus.

Under a writ of habeas corpus, the inquiry is not addressed to errors, but to the question whether the proceedings and judgment are nullities, and unless it appears that the judgment or sentence under which the prisoner is confined is void, he is not entitled to his discharge.

Where a court has jurisdiction of the person and the offense, the imposition of a sentence in excess of what the law permits does not render the legal or authorized portion of the sentence void, but only leaves such part of it as may be in excess open to question and attack.

In accordance with this principle, the court answers the third question certified in the negative, without expressing an opinion as to what would have been the proper action of the circuit court in dealing with the prisoner's application.

The case is stated in the opinion.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

At the September term, 1890, of the District Court for the First Judicial District of Logan County, Oklahoma Territory, and for the Indian Country attached thereto for judicial purposes, sitting with the powers of a district court of the United States of America, the appellee, Sidney S. Pridgeon, was regularly indicted for horse stealing by the grand jurors of the United States of America within and for Logan County, and that part of the Indian Country attached thereto for judicial purposes, after having been first duly sworn, impaneled, and charged to inquire of offenses against the laws of the United States committed therein. He was thereafter tried and convicted of the offense with which he was charged, and the court thereupon, on February 12, 1891, entered judgment upon the conviction as follows: that

"the said Sidney S.

Page 153 U. S. 50

Pridgeon, for the said offense by him committed, be imprisoned in the Ohio State Penitentiary at Columbus, and confined at hard labor, for the term of five years, said term to begin at 12 o'clock m., February 12, 1891, and to pay the costs of this prosecution, amounting to the sum of two hundred and thirty-two dollars and fifty-three cents, and to stand committed until the amount of said costs shall have been fully paid."

In pursuance of this sentence, Pridgeon was transported to, and confined in, the Ohio State Penitentiary, in which the usual discipline for prisoners confined therein includes "hard labor."

On July 7, 1893, Pridgeon applied to the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, for a writ of habeas corpus to be discharged from the custody of the warden of the state penitentiary, alleging in his petition that he was wrongfully restrained of his liberty, first because the court which tried, convicted, and sentenced him had no jurisdiction in the premises, and second that the sentence imposed was beyond the power and jurisdiction of the court, and therefore void. Upon the hearing of the petition, the circuit court, without passing upon the question of jurisdiction of the court which imposed the sentence, held that the prayer of the petitioner should be granted, for the reason that the sentence should have been for imprisonment, alone, and that the imposition of "hard labor," as a part of the punishment, rendered the whole sentence void, and thereupon the petitioner was discharged. 57 F. 200. From this decision the United States appealed the case to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. That court, in view of the important questions arising upon the record, and the doubt which it entertained as to the correct decision thereof, certified to this Court the following questions:

"First. Was horse stealing on November 12, 1890, in the Indian Country, within the boundaries of Oklahoma Territory, as defined by the Act of Congress passed May 2, 1890, a crime against the United States, and punishable under the Act of Congress passed February 15, 1888, denouncing horse stealing in the Indian Territory? "

Page 153 U. S. 51

"Second (assuming the first question is answered in the negative). Was the indictment against Pridgeon fatally defective on collateral attack by writ of habeas corpus, in that it lays the venue of the offense 'at and within that part of the Territory of Oklahoma attached for judicial purposes to Logan County,' with a description of territory which includes part of Oklahoma and part of the Cherokee Outlet not in Oklahoma, and avers the same to be 'then and there Indian Country, and a place then and there under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States of America?

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