Famous Smith v. United States,
Annotate this Case
151 U.S. 50 (1894)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Famous Smith v. United States, 151 U.S. 50 (1894)
Famous Smith v. United States
Submitted November 15, 1893
Decided January 3, 1894
151 U.S. 50
A Cherokee Indian being indicted in the Circuit Court of the United States for the western District of Arkansas for the murder of a white man, it was set up in defense that the murdered man was also an Indian, and that the court was therefore without jurisdiction. The evidence for the defense showed that the murdered man was generally recognized as an Indian, that his reputed father was so recognized, and that he himself was enrolled, and had participated in the payment of bread money to the Cherokees. To offset this, the government showed that he had not been permitted to vote at a Cherokee election, but it also appeared that he had not been in the district long enough to vote.
(1) That the burden was on the prosecution to prove that he was a white man.
(2) That the testimony offered by the government had no legitimate tendency to prove that the murdered man was not an Indian.
This was a writ of error to review the conviction of the plaintiff in error for the murder of one James Gentry, alleged to have been "a white man, and not an Indian," on August 1, 1883, in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. The case was tried before the Circuit Court of the United States for the
Western District of Arkansas at the May term of 1893, and the prisoner convicted, and sentenced to death. Thirty-four assignments of error were contained in the record, none of which was considered except the first and last, which raised the question of the jurisdiction of the court arising from the fact that both the accused and the deceased were Indians.