Summers v. United States - 231 U.S. 92 (1913)
U.S. Supreme Court
Summers v. United States, 231 U.S. 92 (1913)
Summers v. United States
Argued October 22, 23, 1913
Decided November 10, 1913
231 U.S. 92
The court will if possible avoid construing a code of procedure as establishing a dual instead of a single procedure in the prosecution of crimes committed within the same territorial jurisdiction.
The fact that the courts of Territories may have such jurisdiction of cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States as that vested in the circuit and district courts does not make them circuit and district courts of the United States.
The Alaskan Code of Criminal Procedure is very complete and circumstantial. It covers every step in a criminal proceeding, including the form of indictment of all crimes whether specifically defined therein or not.
Prior to the amendment of 1913, § 43 of Title II of the Alaskan Code of Criminal Procedure, providing that the indictment must charge but one crime and in one form only applied to the indictment for any offense, whether specifically defined in that Code or not.
It is a substantial right, and not a mere matter of procedure, to have the indictment confined to one offense and in one form only, and the amendment of 1913 to such § 43, permitting the joinder of several offenses, did not have retrospective operation.
The principle that one good count will support a judgment of conviction does not apply where the accused has the right to defend against the validity of the indictment for joining the counts and this right has not been lost by failure to plead the defect.
Fault cannot be imputed by the appellate court to the accused for standing on a right under the law as it existed at the time of the trial because the law has been so amended meanwhile as to eliminate such right.
This Court, having sustained appellant's contention that the indictment was insufficient, refrains from expressing any opinion on other contentions of appellant.
20 F. 457 reversed.
The facts, which involve the validity of an indictment
charging more than one offense, found in Alaska, are stated in the opinion.