Fitzpatrick v. United States - 178 U.S. 304 (1900)


U.S. Supreme Court

Fitzpatrick v. United States, 178 U.S. 304 (1900)

Fitzpatrick v. United States

Submitted April 30, 1900

Decided May 28, 1900

178 U.S. 304

Syllabus

Under the Court of Appeals Act of March 3, 1891, a conviction for murder is a "conviction of a capital crime," though the jury qualify their verdict of guilty by adding the words "without capital punishment." The test of a capital crime is not the punishment which is imposed, but that which may be imposed under the statute.

Under the statute of Oregon requiring the offense to be stated "in ordinary and concise language and in such manner as to enable a person of common understanding to know what was intended," an indictment for murder charging that the defendant feloniously, purposely, and of deliberate and premeditated malice inflicted upon the deceased a mortal wound of which he instantly died is a sufficient allegation of premeditated and deliberate malice in killing him.

Evidence that one jointly indicted with the defendant was found to have been wounded in the shoulder, and his accompanying statement that he had been shot, were held to be competent upon the trial of the defendant.

Any fact which had a bearing upon the question of defendant's guilt, immediate or remote, and occurring at any time before the incident was closed, was held proper for the consideration of the jury, although statements made by other defendants in his absence implicating him with the murder would not be competent.

The prisoner taking the stand in his own behalf and swearing to an alibi was held to have been properly cross-examined as to the clothing worn by him on the night of the murder, his acquaintance with the others jointly indicted with him, and other facts showing his connection with them.

Where an accused party waives his constitutional privilege of silence and takes the stand in his own behalf and makes his own statement, the prosecution has a right to cross-examine him upon such statement with

Page 178 U. S. 305

the same latitude as would be exercised in the case of an ordinary witness as to the circumstances connecting him with the alleged crime.

Evidence in rebuttal with respect to the effect of light from the flash of a revolver was held to be competent where the defense put in a calendar, apparently for the purpose of showing the time the moon rose that night.

This was a writ of error to review the conviction of Fitzpatrick, who was jointly indicted with Henry Brooks and William Corbett for the murder of Samuel Roberts, on March 13, 1898 at Dyea, in the Territory of Alaska.

The indictment, omitting the formal parts, was as follows:

"The said John Fitzpatrick, Henry Brooks, and William Corbett at near Dyea, within the said District of Alaska and within the jurisdiction of this court, and under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, on the 13th day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight, did unlawfully, willfully, knowingly, feloniously, purposely, and of deliberate and premeditated malice make an assault upon one Samuel Roberts, and that they, the said John Fitzpatrick, Henry Brooks, and William Corbett, a certain revolver, then and there charged with gunpowder and leaden bullets, which said revolver they, the said John Fitzpatrick, Henry Brooks, and William Corbett, in their hands then and there had and held, then and there feloniously, purposely, and of deliberate and premeditated malice did discharge and shoot off to, against, and upon the said Samuel Roberts, and that said John Fitzpatrick, Henry Brooks, and William Corbett with one of the bullets aforesaid out of the revolver aforesaid then and there by force of the gunpowder aforesaid by the said John Fitzpatrick, Henry Brooks, and William Corbett, discharged and shot off as aforesaid then and there feloniously, purposely, and deliberate and premeditated malice did strike, penetrate, and wound him, the said Samuel Roberts, in and upon the right breast of him, the said Samuel Roberts, then and there with the leaden bullet aforesaid so as aforesaid discharged and shot out of the revolver aforesaid by the said John Fitzpatrick, Henry Brooks, and William Corbett, in and upon the right breast of him the said Samuel Roberts one

Page 178 U. S. 306

mortal wound, of which said mortal wound he, the said Samuel Roberts, instantly died, and so the grand jurors duly selected, impaneled, sworn and charged as aforesaid upon their oaths do say that said John Fitzpatrick, Henry Brooks, and William Corbett did then and there kill and murder the said Samuel Roberts in the manner and form aforesaid, contrary to the form of the statutes in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the United States of America."

"Burton E. Bennett"

"U.S. District Attorney"

After a demurrer to the indictment, which was overruled, and a motion for a continuance, which was denied, Brooks and Corbett moved and obtained an order for separate trials. The court thereupon proceeded to the trial of Fitzpatrick, the jury returning a verdict of guilty "without capital punishment." Motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were entered, heard, and overruled, and defendant sentenced to hard labor for life in the penitentiary at San Quentin, California. To review such judgment a writ of error was sued in forma pauperis.



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