Goto v. Layne,
265 U.S. 393 (1924)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Goto v. Layne, 265 U.S. 393 (1924)

Goto v. Layne

No. 463

Argued February 28, 29, 1924

Decided June 2, 1924

265 U.S. 393


1. In the federal courts, a discharge on habeas corpus of a prisoner confined under a criminal accusation or conviction is granted only in the exercise of a sound judicial discretion. P. 265 U. S. 401.

Page 265 U. S. 394

2. The instances in which this remedy is granted when the law has provided another remedy in regular course are exceptional, and usually confined to situations where there is a peculiar and pressing need for it or where the process or judgment under which the prisoner is held is wholly void. P. 265 U. S. 401.

3. Petitioners were convicted of an infamous crime in the Circuit Court of Hawaii, under an indictment phrased disjunctively, but which they stipulated should be construed conjunctively; on exceptions reserved at the trial, they contended in the territorial supreme court that the indictment was bad for uncertainty, under the Sixth Amendment, and the stipulation void as an amendment of the indictment without resubmission to a grand jury, in contravention of the Fifth Amendment; following local practice, the supreme court overruled the exceptions without entering a judgment affirming the conviction which would have been reviewable here, and thereafter the petitioners renewed the constitutional objections by their petition for habeas corpus in the United States District Court for Hawaii.

Held: (a) that the territorial trial court had jurisdiction to decide upon the construction of the indictment, its sufficiency, and the effect of the stipulation, and its judgment, if erroneous, was not void, even though the application of constitutional principles was involved. P. 265 U. S. 402.

(b) The stipulation was not an amendment of the indictment. Ex parte Bain, 121 U. S. 1, distinguished. Id.

(c) Relief should have been sought by writ of error from the Hawaiian Supreme Court, whose judgment, if it affirmed the conviction, would have been reviewable here. Id.

(d) Allowing the time to elapse within which a writ of error might have been taken gave no right to habeas corpus as a substitute. Id.


Appeal from a judgment of the District Court for Hawaii refusing a writ of habeas corpus.

Page 265 U. S. 398

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