Clifton v. United States
45 U.S. 242 (1846)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Clifton v. United States, 45 U.S. 4 How. 242 242 (1846)

Clifton v. United States

45 U.S. (4 How.) 242

Syllabus

Upon the trial of a cause where goods had been seized upon suspicion of being fraudulently imported and the United States had shown sufficient ground for an opinion of the court that probable cause existed for the prosecution, and notice had been given to the claimant to produce his books and accounts relating to those goods, it was proper for the court to instruct the jury that if the claimant had withheld the testimony of his accounts and transactions with the parties abroad from whom he received the goods, they were at liberty to presume that, if produced, they would have operated unfavorably to his cause.

The doctrine laid down in 2 Evans' Pothier 149, cited and approved, namely,

"That if the weaker and less satisfactory evidence is given and relied on in support of a fact when it is apparent to the court and jury that proof of a more direct and explicit character was within the power of the party, the same caution which rejects the secondary evidence will awaken distrust and suspicion of the weaker and less satisfactory, and it may well be presumed that if the more perfect exposition had been given, it would have laid open deficiencies and objections which the more obscure and uncertain testimony was intended to conceal."

The principle established in the case of Wood v. United States, 16 Pet. 342, reviewed and confirmed, namely

"That if goods are fraudulently invoiced, they are not exempted from forfeiture by having been appraised in the custom house at valuations exceeding the prices in the invoices, and delivered to the importers on payment of the duties assessed upon such increased valuations."

If the information contains several counts, founded on the following acts, namely, the sixty-sixth section of the act of 1799, the fourth section of the act of 1830, and the fourteenth section of the act of 1832, the defectiveness of the counts upon the acts of 1830 and 1832 would be no ground for reversing a judgment of condemnation, provided the count is good which is founded upon the act of 1799, because one good count is sufficient to uphold a general verdict and judgment.

The difference between these sections explained.

In this case, therefore, it is unnecessary to decide what averments are required in counts resting upon the acts of 1830 and 1832, or whether the counts are or are not void from generality.

The facts are fully set forth in the opinion of the Court.

Page 45 U. S. 243

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