Cochran and Sayre v. United States,
157 U.S. 286 (1895)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cochran and Sayre v. United States, 157 U.S. 286 (1895)

Cochran and Sayre v. United States

No. 815

Argued and submitted March 4, 1895

Decided March 25, 1895

157 U.S. 286


In an indictment against the President and the. assistant cashier of a national bank for making a false entry in a report, under Rev.Stat. § 5209, the report need not be described with technical accuracy; nor is it necessary to allege that the report in which the false entry was made was verified by the oath or affirmation of the president or cashier, or attested by the signature of the directors.

In such an indictment the true test is not whether it might possibly have been made more certain, but whether it contains every element of the

Page 157 U. S. 287

offense intended to be charged and sufficiently apprises the defendant of what he must be prepared to meet, and, in case any other proceedings are taken against him for a similar offense, whether the record shows with accuracy to what extent he may plead a former acquittal or conviction.

Several objections to the admissibility of evidence considered and disposed of.

A note whose payment is guaranteed by a national bank is a liability of the bank which is required by law (Rev.Stat. § 5211) to be shown in the report to the Comptroller of the Currency.

Some objections to the charge considered and disposed of.

The defendants requested the court to charge the jury as follows:

"You are further instructed that the defendants are presumed to be innocent until the contrary appears beyond a reasonable doubt, and that every reasonable doubt or presumption arising from the evidence must be construed in their favor."

The court refused to give this instruction, but instead thereof gave a carefully prepared definition of reasonable doubt, without referring to the presumption of innocence which attends an accused at every stage of the proceeding. Held, following Coffin v. United States, 156 U. S. 432, that this was error, as the defendants were entitled to an instruction upon the point of the presumption of innocence, if requested.

This was a writ of error to review a conviction of William H. Cochran, president, and Robert H. Sayre, assistant cashier, of the First National Bank of Del Norte, Colorado, for making a false entry in a report to the Comptroller of the Currency. On November 22, 1893, the grand jury presented three separate indictments against the plaintiffs in error, which were numbered 959, 960, and 992, respectively. These indictments were identical in language except so far as it was necessary to change them so that the plaintiffs in error could both be charged as principals and as accessories of each other. In No. 959, both were charged as principals for making false entries in their reports. In No. 960, Sayre was charged with making, and Cochran with aiding, abetting, and procuring Sayre to make, such false entries, and in No. 992, Cochran was charged with making, and Sayre as an accessory.

Each indictment contained twelve counts, and, on motion to quash, the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth counts of each indictment were held to be insufficient. On May 11, 1894, the three indictments were consolidated and tried as one, and on

Page 157 U. S. 288

June 6, 1894, the defendants were convicted upon the first count of the indictment originally numbered 960.

Whereupon, defendants sued out this writ of error.

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