United States v. Smith
Annotate this Case
197 U.S. 386 (1905)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Smith, 197 U.S. 386 (1905)
United States v. Smith
Argued March 15, 1905
Decided April, 3, 1905
197 U.S. 386
The word "arrest " as employed in Article 43 of 1624, Rev.Stat., requiring service of the charge on which the accused is to be tried by court martial, does not relate to the preliminary arrest or detention of an accused person awaiting the action of higher authority to frame charges and specifications and order a court-martial, but to the arrest resulting from preferring the charges by the proper authority, and the convening of a court-martial.
The provision in Article 38 of 1624, Rev.Stat., that no commander of a fleet or squadron shall convene a general court-martial without express authority from the President was enacted in 1862, and will be construed as intending to apply to waters within the continental limits of the United States, and not to waters in the territory beyond the seas acquired since the passage of that act, and the acquisition whereof was not contemplated at that time.
On May 26, 1899, John Smith was serving under enlistment as a fireman of the first class on board the United States naval vessel Yorktown, then at anchor in Iloilo harbor, Philippine Islands. On the date named, Smith was reported to the commanding officer of the Yorktown as having refused to do duty, and consequently such officer ordered him "put under sentries as a prisoner in single irons for safekeeping to await trial by a general court-martial." Subsequently, on June 30, 1899, Rear Admiral Watson, the Commander in Chief of the United
states naval force on the Asiatic station, convened a general court-martial, to meet on July, 3, 1899, for the purpose of trying accused persons who might be legally brought before the court, and on the same day a charge was preferred against Smith, by the rear admiral, accompanied with a specification, for refusing to obey a lawful order of his superior officer. Smith, who, as already stated, had been placed under arrest on May 26, 1899, was served on July 1, 1899, with a copy of the charge and specification which had been preferred against him, and an extra watch was put over him as well as over other prisoners who were being held for trial. On July 5, 1899, Smith was sent under guard before the court-martial. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced
"to be confined in such place as the Secretary of the Navy may direct for a period of one year, to perform extra police duties during such confinement, to lose all pay that may become due him during such confinement, except the sum of three dollars ($3) per month for necessary prison expenses, and a further sum of $20 to be paid him at the expiration of his term of confinement, when he shall be dishonorably discharged from the United States Navy."
The term of imprisonment prescribed in the sentence was somewhat mitigated by the Secretary of the Navy. Thereafter, on being released, Smith sued in the Court of Claims to recover the pay which would have been earned by him had he been entitled to receive the same during the period covered by the sentence. The right to recover was based on the averment that a copy of the charge had not been served on Smith when he was originally put under arrest on May 26, 1899, it being claimed that for this reason the judgment of the court-martial was void. After finding the facts as above recited, the Court of Claims concluded as matter of law that the claimant was entitled to recover, and from the judgment entered upon such finding the government appealed.
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