Edgington v. United States - 164 U.S. 361 (1896)
U.S. Supreme Court
Edgington v. United States, 164 U.S. 361 (1896)
Edgington v. United States
Submitted November 2, 1896
Decided November 30, 1896
164 U.S. 361
Section 5438 of the Revised Statutes (codified from the Act of March 2, 1863, c. 67, 12 Stat. 696) is wider in its scope than § 4746 (codified from the Act of March 3, 1873, c. 234, 17 Stat. 575), and its provisions were not repealed by the latter act.
On the trial of a person accused of the commission of crime, he may, without offering himself as a witness, call witnesses to show that his character was such as to make it unlikely that he would be guilty of the crime charged, and such evidence is proper for the consideration of the jury in determining whether there is a reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused.
At the March term, 1895, in the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of Iowa, Avington A. Edgington was tried and found guilty of the crime of making a false deposition, on April 13, 1894, in aid of a fraudulent pension claim on behalf of his mother, Jennie M. Edgington, claiming to be the widow of Francis M. Edgington.
The indictment was based on section 5438 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, and it was claimed on behalf of
the defendant that that section had been repealed by the subsequent enactment of section 4746 of the Revised Statutes, and was no longer in force at the time the indictment was found. The motion to direct a verdict of not guilty for that reason was overruled, to which action of the court an exception was taken. Exceptions were also taken to the action of the court in excluding testimony as to the defendant's general reputation for truth and veracity, and to the instruction to the jury upon the testimony as to the good character of the defendant.
On April 30, 1895, judgment was pronounced against the defendant that he pay a fine of $1,500 and the costs, and that he stand committed to jail until said fine and costs should be paid. A writ of error was prayed for and allowed.