United States v. Reid
53 U.S. 361 (1851)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Reid, 53 U.S. 12 How. 361 361 (1851)

United States v. Reid

53 U.S. (12 How.) 361

Syllabus

Where two persons were jointly indicted for an offense committed against the United States, viz., a murder committed upon the high seas, and were tried separately, it was not competent for the person first tried to call the other as a witness in his behalf.

The trial took place in Virginia, and the evidence would have been competent under a law of Virginia passed in 1849.

But the 34th section of the Judiciary Act of 1789, declaring that the laws of the several states shall be regarded as rules of decision in trials at common law in the courts of the United States, meant only to include civil cases at common law, and not criminal offenses against the United States.

The law by which the admissibility of testimony in criminal cases must be determined is the law of the state as it was when the courts of the United States were established by the Judiciary Act of 1789.

Without laying down any general rule how far the affidavits of jurors impeaching their verdict ought to be received, it is decided that the affidavits of two jurors, stating that, whilst empanelled, they read a newspaper report of the preceding evidence, but which had no influence upon their verdict, were not sufficient ground for a new trial.

The facts are all stated in the opinion of the court.

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