Burns v. United States,
274 U.S. 328 (1927)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Burns v. United States, 274 U.S. 328 (1927)

Burns v. United States

No. 135

Argued November 24, 1926

Decided May 16, 1927

274 U.S. 328


1. The California statute defining and punishing criminal syndicalism is not violative of the Fourteenth Amendment. Whitney v. California, post, p. 274 U. S. 357. P. 274 U. S. 330.

Page 274 U. S. 329

2. An instruction to a jury must be considered in connection with the evidence bearing on the matter to which it refers and with the charge as a whole. P. 274 U. S. 331.

3. To advocate among workers such acts as maliciously stowing the cargo of a ship so that it will shift and cause her to list and return to port is to teach and abet "sabotage," which is defined by the California statute as meaning "willful and malicious damage or injury to physical property;" it is also to teach and abet "crime" and "unlawful methods of terrorism." P. 274 U. S. 332.

4. In a prosecution under the California Act Against Criminal Syndicalism, it is not necessary to show that the elements of criminal syndicalism were advocated or taught with the precision of statement required in indictments for criminal acts involved. The purpose and probable effect of the printed matter circulated and of the things said in furtherance of the declared purposes of the organization are to be considered, having regard to the capacity and circumstances of the persons sought to be influenced. P. 274 U. S. 335.

5. Exceptions to a charge must be specifically made in order to give the court opportunity then and there to correct errors and omissions, if any, and where a series of instructions are excepted to in mass, the exception will be overruled if any one of them is correct. P. 274 U. S. 336.

6. An Instruction in a criminal case authorizing the jury to consider certain facts must be sustained when the record does not purport to contain all the evidence relating to the things referred to, and where it cannot be said as a matter of law that they would be improper for consideration if taken in connection with other facts. P. 274 U. S. 336.


Error to a judgment of the district court sentencing Burns upon his conviction of the crime of criminal syndicalism, under the California law as extended to Yosemite National Park.

Page 274 U. S. 330

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