Whiskey Cases
99 U.S. 594 (1878)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Whiskey Cases, 99 U.S. 594 (1878)

Whiskey Cases, 99 U.S. 594 (1878)

99 U.S. 594

Syllabus

1. The district attorney has no authority to contract that a person accused of an offense against the United States shall not be prosecuted or his property subjected to condemnation therefor if, when examined as a witness against his accomplices, he discloses fully and fairly his and their guilt.

2. A person so accused cannot plead the contract in bar of proceedings against him or his property, nor avail himself of it upon the trial, but has merely an equitable title to executive mercy, of which the court can take notice only when an application to postpone the case is made in order to give him an opportunity to apply to the pardoning power.

The first two of these cases were actions of debt instituted in the circuit court to recover the penalties imposed by secs. 3296 and 3452 of the Revised Statutes. The remaining cases were instituted in the district court by way of information under secs. 3281, 3299, 3453, and 3456. The defense in the first case, and it is substantially the same in all, consists of the general issue and the following special plea:

"And for a further plea in this behalf, said defendants say actio non, because they say that heretofore, to-wit, on the twenty-seventh day of December, A.D. 1875, at Chicago, at, to-wit, said Northern District of Illinois, the said plaintiffs and the said defendants entered into an agreement by which it was, among other things, agreed that if the said defendants would testify on behalf of the plaintiffs frankly and truthfully, when required, in reference to a conspiracy among certain government officials in the revenue service and other parties then known to exist whereby the honest manufacture of spirits and

Page 99 U. S. 595

payment of the tax had been rendered practically impossible, and should plead guilty to one count in an indictment then pending against them in the District Court, in and for said northern district, and should withdraw their pleas in a certain condemnation case then pending against them in said district court, the said plaintiffs would recall any and all assessments under the internal revenue laws then made against said defendants, and that no more assessments under said law should be made against said defendants, and that no proceedings other than said condemnation case should be prosecuted against said defendants, and that no new proceedings should be commenced against said defendants on account of transactions then past; and these defendants aver that they and each of them have fully performed said contract on their part, and defendants further aver that this suit is a proceeding other than said condemnation case, and that this suit is for the recovery upon transactions prior to the entering into said agreement; and this the said defendants are ready to verify."

The United States demurred to the special plea. The demurrer was overruled and, judgment having been rendered for the defendants, and the judgment of the District Court affirmed. The United States brought the cases here.

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