Bihn v. United States - 328 U.S. 633 (1946)
U.S. Supreme Court
Bihn v. United States, 328 U.S. 633 (1946)
Bihn v. United States
Argued March 26, 1946
Decided June 10, 1946
328 U.S. 633
1. Petitioner and one Bennett were tried before a jury for a conspiracy to violate the statute and regulations governing the rationing of gasoline. It was charged that petitioner would steal gasoline ration coupons from the bank where she was employed, transfer them to Bennett, and share with him the proceeds of their sale. The evidence was conflicting, and the case against petitioner was a close one. It appeared that she and three others had access to the box from which the coupons were stolen. Over objection of her counsel, the judge charged the jury: "Did she steal them? Who did if she didn't? You are to decide that." She was convicted.
Held that the probabilities of confusion in the minds of the jurors as to the burden of proof were so great and the charge was so vital to the crucial issue in the case as to constitute prejudicial error, and the conviction is reversed. Pp. 328 U. S. 636-639.
2. An erroneous ruling which relates to the substantial rights of a party is ground for reversal unless it affirmatively appears from the whole record that it was not prejudicial. P. 328 U. S. 638.
3. It is not enough for this Court to conclude that guilt may be deduced from the whole record, since such a course would lead to serious intrusions on the historic functions of the jury under our system of government. Bollenbach v. United States, 326 U. S. 607. Pp. 328 U. S. 638-639.
152 F.2d 342 reversed.
Petitioner was convicted under § 37 of the Criminal Code of a conspiracy to violate the statute and regulations governing the rationing of gasoline. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 152 F.2d 342. This Court granted certiorari. 327 U.S. 771. Reversed, p. 328 U. S. 639.