Kawakita v. United States
343 U.S. 717 (1952)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kawakita v. United States, 343 U.S. 717 (1952)

Kawakita v. United States

No. 570

Argued April 2-3, 1952

Decided June 2, 1952

343 U.S. 717

Syllabus

At petitioner's trial for treason, it appeared that originally he was a native-born citizen of the United States and also a national of Japan by reason of Japanese parentage and law. While a minor, he took the oath of allegiance to the United States; went to Japan for a visit on an American passport, and was prevented by the outbreak of war from returning to this country. During the war, he reached his majority in Japan, changed his registration from American to Japanese, showed sympathy with Japan and hostility to the United States, served as a civilian employee of a private corporation producing war materials for Japan, and brutally abused American prisoners of war who were forced to work there. After Japan's surrender, he registered as an American citizen, swore that he was an American citizen and had not done various acts amounting to expatriation, and returned to this country on an American passport.

Held: his conviction for treason is affirmed. Pp. 343 U. S. 719-745.

1. The evidence was sufficient to support the finding of the jury that he had not renounced or lost his American citizenship at the time of the overt acts charged in the indictment. Pp. 343 U. S. 720-732.

(a) In view of petitioner's dual nationality, it cannot be said as a matter of law that his action in registering in the Koseki (a family census register) and changing his registration from American to Japanese amounted to a renunciation of American citizenship within the meaning of § 401 of the Nationality Act. Pp. 343 U. S. 722-725.

(b) Nor is such a holding required as a matter of law by the facts that, during the war, he traveled to China on a Japanese passport, used his Koseki entry to obtain work at a prisoner of war camp, bowed to the Emperor, and accepted labor draft papers from the Japanese Government. P. 343 U. S. 725.

(c) In view of the conflict between petitioner's statements at his trial that he felt no loyalty to the United States from March, 1943, to late 1945 and his actions after Japan's defeat (when he

Page 343 U. S. 718

applied for registration as an American citizen and for an American passport), the question whether he had renounced his American citizenship was peculiarly for the jury to determine. Pp. 343 U. S. 725-727.

(d) It cannot be said that petitioner was serving in the armed forces of Japan within the meaning of § 401(c), nor that his status as a civilian employee of a private corporation was so changed by the regimentation of the industry by the Japanese government that he was performing the duties of an "office, post or employment under the government" of Japan within the meaning of § 401(d) of the Nationality Act. Pp. 343 U. S. 727-729.

(e) Section 402 creates a rebuttable presumption that a national in petitioner's category expatriates himself when he remains for six months or longer in a foreign state of which he or either of his parents shall have been a national; but that presumption was rebutted by the showing that petitioner was not expatriated under § 401(c) or (d). P. 343 U. S. 730.

(f) If there was any error in the judge's charge to the jury that the only methods of expatriation are those contained in § 401, it was harmless error, since petitioner tendered no question of fact which was inadmissible under § 401 and since the judge charged that he could not be convicted if he honestly believed that he was no longer a citizen of the United States. Pp. 343 U. S. 730-732.

2. Notwithstanding his dual nationality and his residence in Japan, petitioner owed allegiance to the United States, and can be punished for treasonable acts voluntarily committed. Pp. 343 U. S. 732-736.

(a) Since the definition of treason in Art. III, § 3 of the Constitution contains no territorial limitation, an American citizen living beyond the territorial limits of the United States can be guilty of treason against the United States. Pp. 343 U. S. 732-733.

(b) Petitioner was held accountable by the jury only for performing acts of hostility toward this country which he was not required by Japan to perform. Pp. 343 U. S. 734-735.

(c) An American citizen owes allegiance to the United States wherever he may reside. Pp. 343 U. S. 735-736.

3. Each of the overt acts of which petitioner was convicted was properly proven by two witnesses, and each of them showed that petitioner gave aid and comfort to the enemy. Pp. 343 U. S. 736-742.

(a) Two overt acts (abusing American prisoners for the purpose of getting more work out of them in producing war materials for the enemy) qualified as overt acts within the constitutional standard of treason, since they gave aid and comfort to the enemy,

Page 343 U. S. 719

though their contribution to the enemy's war effort was minor. Pp. 343 U. S. 737-739.

(b) The other six overt acts (cruelty to American prisoners of war) gave aid and comfort to the enemy by helping to make all the prisoners fearful, docile, and subservient, reducing the number of guards needed, and requiring less watching -- all of which encouraged the enemy and advanced his interests. Pp. 343 U. S. 739-742.

(c) The overt acts were sufficiently proven by two witnesses, since each overt act was testified to by at least two witnesses who were present and saw or heard that to which they testified, and any disagreement among them was not on what took place, but on collateral details. P. 343 U. S. 742.

4. The evidence was sufficient to prove that petitioner was guilty of voluntarily "adhering the enemy." Pp. 343 U. S. 742-744.

5. The treasonable actions of petitioner were so flagrant and persistent that it cannot be said that the death sentence imposed by the trial judge was so severe as to be arbitrary. Pp. 343 U. S. 744-745.

190 F.2d 506 affirmed.

In a Federal District Court, petitioner was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. See 96 F.Supp. 824. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 190 F.2d 506. This Court granted certiorari. 342 U.S. 932. Affirmed, p. 343 U. S. 745.

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