Cook v. United States
138 U.S. 157 (1891)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cook v. United States, 138 U.S. 157 (1891)

Cook v. United States

No. 1311

Argued December 11-12, 1890

Decided January 28, 1891

138 U.S. 157

Syllabus

By the Act of March 1, 1889, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333, "to establish a United States court in the Indian Territory, and for other purposes," the strip of public land lying south of Kansas and Colorado, and between the one hundredth and the one hundred and third meridians, and known as No Man's Land, was brought within the jurisdiction of the court for the Indian Territory so established, and was attached for limited judicial purposes to the Eastern District of Texas.

The history of and the legislation concerning the Indian Territory considered and reviewed.

By the Act of March 1, 1889, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333, the intention of Congress to confer upon the Circuit Court of the United States in the Eastern District of Texas power to try defendants for the offense of murder committed before its passage, where no prosecution had been commenced, was so clearly expressed as to take it out of the well settled rule that a statute should not be interpreted to have a retroactive operation where vested rights are injuriously affected by it, and it must be construed as operating retroactively.

The provision in Article 3 of the Constitution of the United States as to crimes "not committed within any state" that "the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed" imposes no restriction as to the place of trial except that the trial cannot occur until Congress designates the place, and may occur at any place which shall have been designated by Congress previous to the trial, and it is not infringed by the provision in the Act of March 1, 1889, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333, conferring jurisdiction upon the Circuit Court in the Eastern District of Texas to try defendants for the offense of murder committed before its passage.

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, providing for the trial in criminal prosecutions by a jury "of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law," has reference only to offenses against the United States committed within a state, and is not infringed by the Act of March 1, 1889, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333.

The Act of March 1, 1859, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333, although it subjects persons charged with murder committed in a place under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, but not within any state, to trial in a judicial district different from the one in which they might have been tried at

Page 138 U. S. 158

the time the offense was committed, is not repugnant to Art. I, Sec. 9 of the Constitution of the United States as an ex post facto law, since an ex post facto law does not involve, in any of its definitions, a change of the place of trial of an alleged offense after its commission.

The Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Texas, held at Paris, in that district at the October Term, in 1589, had jurisdiction of an indictment for murder charged to have been committed in the country known as "No Man's Land" July 25, 1888.

The Attorney General having by his brief confessed, as it was his duty to do, that there was error in an important ruling in the court below entitling the defendants to a reversal, this Court reverses the judgment of that court and remands the case for a new trial.

There was, in July, 1888, a parallelogram of unorganized public land extending from the 100th meridian on the east to the 103d on the west, and from latitude 36�30' to latitude 37�. It was called "Public Land" upon the maps, but was commonly known as "No Man's Land." It was originally a part of the Republic of Texas, but, in the annexation, the parallel of 36�30' was made the northerly line of the state, presumably in order to apply the rule of the Missouri Compromise. Kansas and Colorado were subsequently organized in part out of this acquired territory north of 36�30', with their southern boundaries on the 37th parallel; the west line of the Indian Territory was fixed at the 100th meridian, and the eastern boundary of New Mexico was fixed on the 103d meridian, thus leaving this small strip of land not included in any organized state or Territory.

By the Act of March 1, 1889, 25 Stat. 783, c. 333, it was provided that

"A United States court is hereby established whose jurisdiction shall extend over the Indian Territory bounded as follows, to-wit: north by the State of Kansas, east by the States of Missouri and Arkansas, south by the State of Texas, and west by the State of Texas and the Territory of New Mexico."

It will be seen that the Indian Territory as thus defined on the west stretches to the border of New Mexico. To do this, its northern line must run upon a portion of the southern line of Colorado. But Colorado is not mentioned in the act; only Kansas.

Under the provisions of the 17th section of that act, it was

Page 138 U. S. 159

provided that this part of the Indian Territory should "from and after the passage of this act be annexed to and constitute a part of the Eastern Judicial District of the Texas for judicial purposes." P. 786.

By the Act of May 2, 1890, 26 Stat. 81, c. 102, this parallelogram was made a part of the Territory of Oklahoma; but by section 9 of that act, it was provided that crimes committed therein

"prior to the passage of this act shall be tried and prosecuted and proceeded with, until finally disposed of, in the courts now having jurisdiction thereof, as if this act had not been passed."

26 Stat. 86.

The plaintiffs in error were at October term, 1889, of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Texas, sitting at Paris in that state, indicted for murder committed in No Man's Land. The allegations in the indictment were as follows:

"Eastern District of Texas, ss.: the grand jurors of the United States of America, duly elected, empanelled, tried, sworn and charged to inquire into and due presentment make of offenses against the laws of the United States of America in and for the district and circuit aforesaid, on their oath in said court present: that heretofore, to-wit, on the twenty-fifth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-eight, in that section of the country lying between Kansas and Texas bounded on the west by New Mexico and extending east to the hundredth meridian of longitude, commonly called the Neutral Strip or 'No Man's Land,' in the Indian Territory, the same being attached to and constituting part of the Eastern District of Texas for judicial purposes, and within the jurisdiction of this Court,"

etc. -- then charging the homicide.

The trial at which various exceptions to the ruling of the court were duly taken, resulted in conviction and sentence, to review which this writ of error was brought. Several assignments of error were made, but the only ones considered by this Court were those which related to the jurisdiction of the court below, and the following:

"Tenth. The court erred in permitting the counsel for the

Page 138 U. S. 160

"

government to read from the report of Attorney General Bradford in the hearing of the jury certain statements, then to ask the witness Bradford if he did not make the statements so read in said report, and in overruling the objections of plaintiffs in error thereto. And the court erred in admitting in evidence, over the objections of plaintiffs in error, certain parts of said report, as shown of record, because said witness Bradford was placed upon the witness stand by the government as a rebutting witness after counsel for government knew what he would testify to, and said witness had testified as such rebutting witness to the exact facts that the government's counsel had expected him to testify to, and because said witness had stated that plaintiff in error, C. E. Cook, did not state to him in language or in substance the statement contained in said report; because what witness stated in said report was not a report required of him in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of Kansas. Neither said report nor any part thereof was relevant or competent, and is hearsay, and ought not to have been admitted in evidence.

Page 138 U. S. 165

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