St. Clair v. United States
154 U.S. 134 (1894)

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U.S. Supreme Court

St. Clair v. United States, 154 U.S. 134 (1894)

St. Clair v. United States

No. 1062

Submitted March 5, 1894

Decided May 20, 1894

154 U.S. 134

Syllabus

An indictment for murder which charges that the offense was committed on board of an American vessel on the high seas, within the jurisdiction of the court and within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States, sufficiently avers the locality of the offense.

An indictment which charges that A, B, and C, acting jointly, killed and murdered D, is sufficient to authorize the conviction of one, though the others may be acquitted.

A charge in an indictment that the accused did then and there, piratically, willfully, feloniously, and with malice aforethought, strike and beat the said D, then and there giving to said D several grievous, damaging, and mortal wounds, and did then and there, to-wit at the time and place last above mentioned, him, the said D, cast and throw from and out of the said vessel into the sea, and plunge, sick, and drown him, the said D, in the sea aforesaid, sufficiently charges that the throwing into the sea was done willfully, feloniously, and with malice aforethought.

An indictment being found after the trial jury had been properly discharged,

Page 154 U. S. 135

the court may order a venire to issue for persons to serve as jurors, and may further direct the marshal to summon talesmen.

Rule 63 of the court below is not inconsistent with any settled principle of criminal law, and does not interfere with the selection of impartial juries.

Circumstances attending a particular transaction under investigation by a jury, if so interwoven with each other and with the principal facts that they cannot well be separated without depriving the jury of proof that is essential in order to reach a just conclusion, are admissible in evidence.

On the trial under an indictment charging that A, B, and C, acting jointly, killed and murdered P, without charging that they were co-conspirators, evidence of the acts of B and C are admissible against A if part of the res gestae.

A party may show that the testimony of one of his witnesses has taken him by surprise, and that it is contrary to the examination of him preparatory to the trial, or to what the party had reason to believe that the witness would testify, or that the witness had been recently brought under the influence of the other party and had deceived the party calling him.

The certificate of the vessel's registry and proof that she carried the flag of the United States were properly admitted on the trial of this case, and established a prima facie case of proper registry under the laws of the United States, and of the nationality of the vessel and its owners.

When no exception is taken on the trial of a person accused of crime to the action of the court below on a particular matter, that action is not subject to review here, although the statutes and practice of the state in which the trial takes place provide otherwise.

In criminal proceedings, all parts of the record must be interpreted together so as to give effect to every part, if possible, and a deficiency in one part may be supplied by what appears elsewhere in the record.

In February, 1893, the grand jury impaneled in the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of California returned into that court an indictment charging that Thomas St. Clair, Herman Sparf, and Hans Hansen, mariners, late of that district, on the 13th day of January, 1893, with force and arms, on the high seas, and within the jurisdiction of the court, and within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the Unites states, and out of the jurisdiction of any particular state of the United States, in and on board of an American vessel, the bark Hesper, belonging to a citizen or citizens of the United States, whose name or names are or were to the grand jurors unknown, did, with a certain instrument

Page 154 U. S. 136

or weapon (the character and name of which were to the grand jury unknown) then and there held in the hands of one of the defendants (but of which particular one was to the grand jurors unknown),

"then and there, piratically, willfully, feloniously, and with malice aforethought, strike and beat the said Maurice Fitzgerald, then and there giving to the said Maurice Fitzgerald several grievous, dangerous, and mortal wounds, and did then and there, to-wit at the time and place last above mentioned, him, the said Maurice Fitzgerald, cast and throw from and out of the said vessel into the sea, and plunge, sink, and drown him, the said Maurice Fitzgerald, in the sea aforesaid, of which said mortal wounds, casting, throwing, plunging, sinking, and drowning, the said Maurice Fitzgerald, in and upon the high seas aforesaid, out of the jurisdiction of any particular state of the United States of America, then and there instantly died."

"And the grand jurors aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid, do say that, by reason of the casting and throwing the said Maurice Fitzgerald in the sea as aforesaid, they cannot describe the said mortal wounds, or the character and nature of said weapon or instrument. And so the grand jurors aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid, do say that the said Thomas St. Clair, Herman Sparf, and Hans Hansen, him, the said Maurice Fitzgerald at the time and place as aforesaid, upon the high seas as aforesaid, out of the jurisdiction of any particular State of the United States of America, in and upon the said American vessel, within the jurisdiction of the United States of America, and of the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the said United States of America and of this Court, in the manner and form aforesaid, piratically, willfully, feloniously, and with malice aforethought, did kill and murder, against the peace and dignity of the United States of America, and contrary to the form of the statute of the said United States of America in such case made and provided."

It was also averred that the Northern District of California was the district into which St. Clair, Sparf, and Hansen were first brought after committing said offense.

The indictment was based upon section 5339 of the Revised

Page 154 U. S. 137

Statutes, providing, among other things, that:

"Every person who commits murder . . . upon the high seas or in any arm of the sea, or in any river, haven, creek, basin, or bay within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States, and out of the jurisdiction of any particular state; or who, upon any such waters, maliciously strikes, stabs, wounds, poisons, or shoots at any other person, of which striking, stabbing, wounding, poisoning, or shooting such other person dies, either on land or at sea, within or without the United States, shall suffer death."

On motion of the district attorney, the indictment was remitted for trial to the circuit court, where the defendants were arraigned, and severally pleaded not guilty. Rev.Stat. section 1039.

Subsequently the pleas of not guilty were withdrawn, and the defendants jointly demurred to the indictment upon these grounds: 1. that it did not state facts constituting a public offense; 2. that it was uncertain in not showing upon what portion of the high seas the alleged offense was committed or which one of the defendants committed the alleged assault, or whether one or more of the defendants committed any of the acts alleged against them.

The demurrer was overruled, and the defendants, being again arraigned, pleaded not guilty.

A motion for a separate trial of the defendants was made and granted, and the trial of St. Clair was had separately.

At the beginning of the trial, the accused challenged the panel of the trial jurors, and the challenge was denied.

The facts in reference to the challenging of jurors are as follows:

On the 1st day of February, 1893, a day of the term of the circuit court commencing November 28, 1892, an order was made and entered directing a venire to issue, summoning fifty persons to serve as trial jurors, returnable February 14, 1893. Pursuant to that order, a venire containing fifty names drawn from the regular jury box of the court was issued for those persons to act as petit or trial jurors. At the time of the drawing, there were at least three hundred names in the jury

Page 154 U. S. 138

box, but of those, a part were names remaining after previous drawings at former terms of the court and the others were names placed therein by the proper officers just previous to the drawing of said venire to make the whole number of names, up to and including the full number of three hundred. The persons whose names were contained in that venire were duly summoned, and appeared on the 14th day of February, 1893, with the exception of three who had in the mean time been excused by the court. Thereafter, on the second day of March, 1893, a day of the term commencing on the first Monday of February, 1893, the following order was made and caused to be entered:

"There being no further business to be brought before them, it is ordered that the trial jury of said circuit court, for the present February term thereof, be discharged, and paid for their attendance."

On the 6th day of May, 1893, the indictment against St. Clair, Sparf, and Hansen was, as already stated, remitted to the circuit court from the district court.

On the 29th day of May, 1893, a day of the February term, after the discharge of the regular jury for the term, the court entered an order directing a venire to issue for fifty persons to serve as trial jurors, and returnable on Wednesday, June 7, 1893. Pursuant to that order, a venire containing the names of fifty persons, drawn from the regular jury box of the court, was issued for those persons to serve as trial jurors in the circuit court, and to appear on the 7th day of June, 1893. At the time of the drawing last mentioned, there were at least three hundred names in the jury box, but of those a part were names remaining after the last drawing, and the others were names placed therein by the proper officers, just previous to the drawing of the last-mentioned venire, to bring the whole number in the jury box up to three hundred. The persons whose names were contained in the last-mentioned venire (such as were summoned and not excused) appeared and attended the court in obedience to its summons. Thereafter, on June 14, 1893, a day in the February term, the circuit judge presiding, the case against St. Clair was called for trial.

The defendant challenged and objected to the general

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venire and panel of jurors on the ground that the regular venire of jurors for the term had been discharged, and that the court had exhausted its powers to summon a jury to act during the term after the order for a jury of February 1, 1893, and the order discharging the jury of the second of March, 1893, and on the further ground that the statutes had not been complied with in summoning jurors, and that at the time of the drawing of the names of jurors, the jury box had not been refilled with three hundred new names, but a portion of the names therein were names remaining after previous drawings. The court overruled the objection and denied the challenge, to which rulings of the court the defendant objected.

Thereupon, twelve persons who had been drawn and summoned as aforesaid were regularly called into the jury box, but, before being sworn to answer questions touching their qualifications, the attorneys for the defendant objected to and challenged the panel thus called on the ground urged against the general venire. The court overruled the objection and denied the challenge, to which the defendant excepted.

The jurors were then sworn to answer questions touching their qualifications to serve as jurors. After the first juror had been examined as to his qualifications and passed by the United States and the defendant for cause, the court announced that the juror must be sworn to try the case unless challenged by the United States or the defendant, and that this rule would be enforced as to each subsequent juror. The defendant claimed the right to examine all of the jurors as to their qualifications before exercising the peremptory challenge, and excepted to the ruling announced by the court.

The defendant challenged each separate juror after he entered the box on the grounds that the jury had not been properly drawn as hereinbefore stated, which challenge was denied by the court, and the several rulings of the court were excepted to by him.

The names of jurors summoned having become exhausted after only eight had been examined, accepted, and sworn, the court ordered twenty-five talesmen to be summoned for June 15, 1893, to serve as trial jurors in the cause. On that day, the defendant

Page 154 U. S. 140

objected to the last-mentioned venire and to the talesmen on the grounds offered to the original general venire or panel. This objection and challenge were overruled by the court, and the defendant excepted.

The defendant also objected and challenged the talesmen on the ground that there was no jury regularly summoned, to be filled by talesmen, and that the talesmen had not been summoned in conformity to law. This objection was overruled, and he excepted.

The defendant also objected to each separate talesman, after he entered the box and was sworn, upon the grounds last mentioned, and the objection was overruled, to which he excepted.

After a jury of twelve had been impaneled and sworn to try the case, the same objection was repeated to the entire panel sworn to try the case, and, the objection having been overruled, an exception was taken.

The material facts disclosed by the evidence are so fully and accurately stated in the brief on behalf of the government that we adopt the statement of the assistant Attorney General, as follows:

"The Hesper was making the voyage from Australia to Honolulu. It left Newcastle on the 22d of December, 1892, with a crew consisting of fourteen persons. The ship's crew was divided into two watches, one called the 'starboard watch,' which is the captain's watch, the other called the 'port watch,' which is the mate's watch. The watches consisted of four hours at a time, except the afternoon watch, from 4 to 8 o'clock, which is divided into two watches, of two hours each. The watches relieve each other every four hours. The man at the wheel strikes a bell for the watch to come on deck at 12, 4, and 8 o'clock. A watch is always called before 8 bells, which means 12 o'clock, 8 o'clock, and 4 o'clock. Every half-hour is one bell. The seamen call each other, and the officers call the officers. When one watch is performing duty, the other watch is supposed to be sleeping, during the day or night. On the 13th day of January, 1893, the starboard watch consisted of Maurice Fitzgerald, the second mate,

Page 154 U. S. 141

Thomas St. Clair, Herman Sparf, Hans Hansen, and Edward Larsen. The port watch consisted of John Lucas, first mate, Thomas Green, Jens Olsen, Henry Westermind, and Pandy Secaria."

"On the night of the 13th of January, 1893, John Lucas, the first mate, was called out at about five minutes to 12 o'clock by Herman Sparf. He dressed, and, as he was going on deck, eight bells struck, for 12 o'clock. He walked rapidly to the man at the wheel and asked where the second mate was. He called for him, and received no answer. He went to the captain's cabin and reported that he could not find the second mate. The captain came on deck and inquired of the starboard watch, which had been on duty from 8 to 12 o'clock, if they knew where the second mate was, who had charge of their watch. To his inquiry he received no reply. The carpenter was called on deck, and the search for the second mate was continued. The starboard watch, which had gone off duty at 12 o'clock, had gone below, and was called again to the deck by the mate, and was not permitted to go to their bunks to sleep, but was required to remain on deck, and go aft. The deck of the vessel was loaded with coal about ten or twelve feet high. The top of it was floored over with some hard wood, and on top of that a deck was laid of two-inch planking."

"About twenty minutes past 12 o'clock, the captain discovered blood on the deck. About seven or eight feet from the mainmast, one spot of blood was about two and a half feet long. The next morning there was found on the edge of the gangway a narrow strip of scalp, with a small piece of hair, stuck together by blood, attached to it. The hair was black, tinged with gray, and was recognized by the captain as the hair of the second mate, who was missing. There was also found a broom covered with blood alongside the ladder, and beneath the bunk of St. Clair, the plaintiff in error, there was found a hatchet, which was greasy, and on the deck, near to where the blood was seen, there was found a wooden bludgeon. After the captain discovered the blood, he called the starboard watch into the cabin. He saw blood on one of

Page 154 U. S. 142

the cheeks of Herman Sparf. The men all said they could not account for the blood on the deck; that they had heard nothing during their watch, from 8 to 12. Herman Sparf said that he had seen the second mate go up the fore rigging, but had not seen him come down. The captain sent them to their bunks to go to sleep."

"Edward Larsen, a member of the starboard watch, relieved St. Clair at the wheel at 10 o'clock. The second mate was then close by the wheel, when relieved by Larsen. St. Clair went forward on the deck. At that time, the mate was aft. St. Clair returned, and told the mate that something was carried away, and he went forward, and the mate followed him. It was very dark at the time, and that was the last Larsen saw of the second mate. Shortly after St. Clair and the second mate went forward, Larsen heard a dog bark and a man 'holler.' At half-past 10, Captain Sodergren and his wife, who were together in the cabin, heard the dog bark, and two sounds like a human voice in distress. The barking of the dog and the sound of the voice were heard also by John Langlais, the ship's carpenter, and M. P. Luck, the steward, but they only fix it between 8 and 12 o'clock. Herman Sparf, who was of the starboard watch and whose place was on deck, came to the forecastle, where the port watch were sleeping, and called Jens Olsen at a quarter to 11 o'clock, to give them a hand to throw the captain overboard, and about the same time he woke up Thomas Green, and said something to him which Green could not understand. Green went on deck in his underclothing. As he was going on the starboard side, he saw Hansen with a broom in his hand, and when he went on the deck-load he found St. Clair, Hansen, and Herman Sparf standing there. He said to St. Clair: 'What's the matter? What's the news?' St. Clair said, 'We want you to give us a hand to throw the old man overboard' (referring to the captain). So I says, 'How are you going to get him on deck?' and he says, 'One of us will let go the peak halvards, and one of us will go around to the wheel, and, when he comes on deck, then will be the time to do away with him.' So I says, 'Where's the second mate?'

Page 154 U. S. 143

He says, 'He has gone overboard. Can't you see the blood on the deck?' So St. Clair says, 'What do you say?', and I says, 'Wait until I go and put a pair of pants on.'"

"Jens Olsen did not go on deck when called by Sparf at a quarter to 11, and did not see St. Clair until he went on deck at 12 o'clock, when he saw him walking on the deck load, on the starboard side, aft of the mainmast."

"The hatchet which was found under the bunk of St. Clair was identified by Hong, the cook, as the one which St. Clair had borrowed from him at half past 6 o'clock the evening before to cut wood with."

"At half-past 10 o'clock on the night of the homicide, St. Clair had on a blue serge coat, buttoned up at the time he came back to the wheel, and told the mate that something had been carried away, and he and the mate went forward together. When Captain Sodergren saw St. Clair on the deck, helping the mate to light the lamp, about a quarter after 12 o'clock, he had only a shirt on, a gray shirt. The captain saw no blood on it, and he went into the forecastle to discover whether there was blood on the men's clothing. Pandy Secaria had left St. Clair at the wheel about 9 o'clock that night. He saw him next after 12 o'clock, when the first mate was inquiring, 'Where is the second mate?' He saw him again a few minutes later, after the starboard watch had gone below, coming out of the forecastle. He had changed his clothes. He had got a shirt on, and no pants. He jumped inside the forecastle. He had a bundle of clothes in his hand, and he chucked them overboard."

"Thomas Green saw St. Clair about 12 o'clock that night, or a little after, have some clothes, and throw some clothes overboard. He had some clothes rolled up in a bundle, and threw them overboard, in front of Green. St. Clair's hands had blood on them at that time."

"After the mate had disappeared that night, and after St. Clair, Sparf, and Hansen were placed in irons, Sparf said to Edward Larsen, in Swedish, not to say anything about it. And the same night the plaintiff in error, St. Clair, had said to Thomas Green, in the forecastle, 'Say nothing about it, Tom.' "

Page 154 U. S. 144

In the progress of the trial, there were numerous exceptions by the accused in respect to the admission of evidence.

The defendant asked but one instruction, which was in these words:

"Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice, express or implied, and without any mixture of deliberation whatever. The jury are instructed that under the indictment in this case the defendant, St. Clair, may be found guilty of manslaughter, and if, after a full and careful consideration of all the evidence before you, you believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of manslaughter, you may so find your verdict."

This instruction was refused, but no exception was taken at the time to this action of the court. The court charged the jury upon the law of the case, saying, among other things:

"Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice, either express or implied. I do not consider it necessary, gentlemen, to explain it further, for if a felonious homicide has been committed, of which you are to be the judges from the proof, there is nothing in this case to reduce it below the grade of murder."

No exception was taken to the charge of the court or to any part of it.

The jury returned the following verdict: "We, the jury, find Thomas St. Clair, the prisoner at the bar, guilty." Upon that verdict the defendant, after motions for new trial and in arrest of judgment had been overruled, was sentenced to suffer death.

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