Mallett v. North Carolina - 181 U.S. 589 (1901)


U.S. Supreme Court

Mallett v. North Carolina, 181 U.S. 589 (1901)

Mallett v. North Carolina

No. 189

Argued April 8, 1901

Decided May 20, 1901

181 U.S. 589

Syllabus

Questions arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States were presented at the trial of this case in the supreme court of the state, and were decided against the party invoking their protection. Had that Court declined to pass on the federal questions, and dismissed the petition without considering them, this Court would not undertake to revise their action.

The legislation of North Carolina in question in this case did not make that a criminal act which was innocent when done; did not aggravate an offense or change the punishment and make it greater than it was when it was committed; did not alter the rules of evidence and require less or different evidence than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense, and did not deprive the accused of any substantial right or immunity possessed by them at the time of the commission of the

Page 181 U. S. 590

offense charged, and the law granting to the state the right of appeal from the superior court to the supreme court of the state was not an ex post facto law.

The contention that the plaintiffs in error were denied the equal protection of the laws because the state was allowed an appeal from the Superior Court of the Eastern, and not from the Western, District of the state, is not well founded.

It appears by the statement of the plaintiffs in error in their petition for a reargument, that no federal question was raised or considered in the criminal court or in the superior court in respect to the admission of the evidence, and therefore there was no basis on which to claim error in this respect in those courts; nor did the supreme court, in passing on the contention, deal with it as a federal question, but as a mere question arising under the criminal law of the state, and hence there is nothing in its action for this Court to review.

In September, 1898, John P. Mallett and Charles B. Mehegan were indicted and tried in the criminal court of the County of Edgecombe, North Carolina, for conspiracy to defraud. They were convicted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in the common jail. They appealed to the superior court. The record was certified up by the clerk of the criminal court on April 1, 1899. The superior court reversed the verdict and judgment, and granted a new trial. From this judgment of the superior court the state appealed, on July 7, 1899, to the supreme court, which reversed the judgment of the superior court, and remanded the cause to the criminal court, with directions that the sentence imposed by that court should be carried into execution.

At the time of the commission of the offense, and at the time of the trial in the criminal court of Edgecombe County, the State of North Carolina was not entitled to appeal to the supreme court of the state from the judgment of the superior court granting the defendants a new trial. There are two district criminal courts in the state -- the eastern and the western. In the eastern district, in which the County of Edgecombe is situated, the state, since March 6, 1899, by legislation of that date, is allowed to appeal to the supreme court from a judgment of the superior court granting a defendant a new trial, but such right of appeal is not allowed to the state from judgments of the superior court in cases on appeal from the western

Page 181 U. S. 591

district criminal court. It thus appears that the right of appeal from the superior court to the supreme court was conferred upon the state after the commission of the offense and the trial in the criminal and before the superior court had granted a new trial.

From the judgment of the supreme court of the state, a writ of error was allowed to this Court.



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