Petitioner was convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 281, on
charges that he had conspired with and induced a federal employee
to accept outside compensation for services in a matter before a
federal agency in which the United States had an interest. The
Government relied upon voluntary oral and written statements made
by petitioner to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and upon other
independent evidence. The statements made by petitioner to the FBI
were exculpatory, and were not confessions, but were admissions of
fact essential to prove the charge against petitioner and of an
element of the crime.
1. An accused's extrajudicial admissions of essential facts or
elements of the crime, made subsequent to the crime, are of the
same character as confessions, and corroboration by independent
evidence is required. Pp. 348 U. S.
(a) The requirement of corroboration applies to exculpatory
statements to the same extent that it applies to incriminatory
statements. Pp. 348 U. S.
2. The jury's finding in this case, from the admissions of
essential facts together with all the other evidence, that the
guilt of petitioner had been established beyond a reasonable doubt
is supported by substantial evidence. Pp. 348 U. S.
(a) The corroborative evidence need not be sufficient,
independent of the statements, to establish the corpus
P. 348 U. S.
(b) It is sufficient if the corroboration supports the essential
facts admitted sufficiently to justify a jury inference of their
truth; but those facts plus the other evidence must be sufficient
to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. P. 348 U. S.
3. There is nothing in the record in this case requiring
reversal because of any confusion or injustice arising from the
trial of petitioner jointly with a codefendant. Pp. 348 U. S.
211 F.2d 719, affirmed.
Page 348 U. S. 85
MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner seeks review of a conviction under charges that he
violated 18 U.S.C. § 281, a section which punishes employees of the
United States who receive outside compensation for any services to
be rendered in any matter before a federal department or agency in
which the United States is a party. Petitioner was not himself an
employee, but was charged with inducing a federal employee to
accept compensation for such services through conspiring with him
for that purpose. Such inducement violates 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 an 281.
The sections are set out in the margin. [Footnote 1
Count 1 of the indictment charged in substance that, on or about
October 1, 1950, Hollifield, an employee of the United States,
agreed to receive $1,750 from the petitioner for services to be
rendered by Hollifield in regard to purchase requests in which the
United States had a
Page 348 U. S. 86
direct interest. The services consisted of Hollifield's
recommending approval and procurement by the Department of the Air
Force of certain types of sun goggles and ski goggles which were to
be used in Air Force survival kits. Count 4 charged receipt by
Hollifield of $200 on or about August 5, 1951. Each of these two
counts charged that petitioner aided, abetted, induced and procured
Hollifield to unlawfully receive the compensation.
The fifth count charged a conspiracy between Hollifield and the
petitioner from October 1, 1950, until September 26, 1951, to
perform the unlawful acts alleged. Convictions on other counts were
Hollifield and the petitioner were tried jointly after the
petitioner's motion for severance was denied. The jury found
petitioner guilty on all counts, and sentence was duly imposed. On
appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the
conviction as to the above counts now before us. 211 F.2d 719.
Certiorari was granted, 347 U.S. 1010, because of asserted
variance or conflict between the legal conclusion reached in this
case -- that an extrajudicial exculpatory statement of an accused,
subsequent to the alleged crime, needs no corroboration -- and
other cases to the contrary. [Footnote 2
] This Court, in granting certiorari, limited
review to the three issues raised by the petitioner which were
considered important to the administration of criminal law and upon
which there appeared to be some divergence of opinion among the
Courts of Appeals. [Footnote
Hollifield was employed by the United States Air Force at the
Aero Medical Laboratory at Wright Field,
Page 348 U. S. 87
Dayton, Ohio. His job entailed, among other things, preparing
the specifications of survival kits and determining whether goods
submitted for those kits, including goggles, complied with the
specifications. Petitioner resided in Chicago, and was a
subcontractor on various projects for equipping these kits. The
petitioner supplied certain goggles to a prime contractor who
submitted them for approval for use in the kits. The goggles were
rejected on January 23, 1951, because of "marked deviations" from
applicable specifications. A short time thereafter, Hollifield
arranged a conference with the project engineer who had made the
rejection. At the conference, Hollifield, accompanied by the
petitioner, strongly urged acceptance of petitioner's goggles. It
was concluded that Hollifield should prepare a written memorandum
of his reasons for acceptance. A written memorandum dated January
25, 1951, was prepared. [Footnote
] Thereafter, reconsideration was granted, and, on February 3,
1951, use of petitioner's goggles was recommended.
The Government further established by various records that, on
April 13, 1951, a long-distance call was made from Hollifield's
residence in Dayton to petitioner in Chicago; that petitioner, on
April 16, 1951, cashed a check for $1,000, which check was dated
April 13, 1951; and that a round-trip airline ticket was issued in
Page 348 U. S. 88
for April 14, 1951, flights from Dayton to Chicago and
The evidence of the Government thus far summarized was
established by independent proof. The remainder of the Government's
case depended upon a written statement submitted by the petitioner
to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and various oral statements
made by the petitioner to the FBI in several interviews.
The substance of these statements was that the petitioner had
first met Hollifield in October, 1950, and had seen him some
fifteen times thereafter at Wright Field and in Chicago, and that
he had discussed the rejection of the goggles with Hollifield. He
further stated that Hollifield, pursuant to an earlier phone call,
came to his office in Chicago on Saturday, April 14, 1951, and he
had handed Hollifield $1,000 which he had taken from cash he had at
home and which cash he had replenished on Monday, April 16, 1951,
by cashing a check dated April 13, 1951, in that amount. Petitioner
also admitted giving Hollifield another $200 some two weeks
In both his oral and written statements, petitioner insisted
that he had never requested anything of Hollifield in regard to the
goggles; that the money was strictly a loan to Hollifield based
upon Hollifield's request to him that he needed money in regard to
a mortgage on his home; that no security was given for the loan;
that he had no receipt or agreement for interest; that he had no
personal knowledge as to whether Hollifield owned a home or not;
and that none of the money had been repaid. Petitioner consistently
and specifically denied any guilt of the offense charged.
The petitioner makes no claim that any of the extrajudicial
statements were anything but voluntary. In fact, the record
discloses that petitioner was cooperative with the FBI in
furnishing information, and that petitioner had ample opportunity
to consult counsel in reference to the
Page 348 U. S. 89
FBI interviews and statements he made. Petitioner's prime
contention is that his statements made after the date of the
offense charged are so analogous to a confession that the same
rules applicable to confessions must be applied, and that, if such
rules are applied, the conviction cannot stand.
It is petitioner's contention that, where
extrajudicial admissions that point to guilt are made by the
accused after the date of the acts charged as crime, testimony by
witnesses other than the accused as to such oral or written
admissions cannot be accepted as evidence without corroboration of
the facts stated. That conclusion derives from petitioner's
position that admissions of essential facts to prove a crime or
admissions of some of its elements are so analogous to confessions
of guilt that the same rule as to corroboration should be
In the United States, our concept of justice that finds no man
guilty until proven has led our state and federal courts generally
to refuse conviction on testimony concerning confessions of the
accused not made by him at the trial of his case. Wigmore, Evidence
(3d ed.), § 2071. See Warszower v. United States,
312 U. S. 342
345, note 2. We have gone further in that direction than has the
common law of England. There, the courts have been hesitant to lay
down a rule that an uncorroborated extrajudicial confession may not
send an accused to prison or to death. [Footnote 5
] In our country, the doubt persists that the
zeal of the agencies of prosecution to protect the peace, the
self-interest of the accomplice, the maliciousness of an
Page 348 U. S. 90
enemy or the aberration or weakness of the accused under the
strain of suspicion may tinge or warp the facts of the confession.
Admissions, retold at a trial, are much like hearsay -- that is,
statements not made at the pending trial. They had neither the
compulsion of the oath nor the test of cross-examination. [Footnote 6
] They are competent as an
admission against interest.
The admissions detailed above establish an acquaintance between
petitioner and the employee and a motive, but not a purpose, to
have the federal employee agree to receive prohibited compensation
for the services. More importantly, they establish the receipt of
money by the employee around the time of the alleged inducement by
conspiracy to secure the employee's services before a federal
agency concerning a contract in which the United States was
interested. While the oral and verbal statements were not
confessions of guilt, they were admissions of fact essential to
prove the charge against petitioner, and indeed of an element of
the crime -- inducement to receive the prohibited compensation or
an illegal acceptance of promise to pay.
In Warszower v. United States, 312 U.
, 312 U. S. 348
we held that, although the only proof of an essential element of
making a false statement was admissions to the contrary prior to
the crime charged, sufficient to convict if found true, such an
admission would take the case to the jury. We said such admissions
"contain none of the inherent weaknesses of confessions or
admissions after the fact." We think that an accused's admissions
of essential facts or elements of the crime, subsequent to the
crime, are of the same character as confessions, and that
corroboration should be required. See
Page 348 U. S. 91
(16th ed.), § 216; Smith v. United States, 348 U.
The need for corroboration extends beyond complete and conscious
admission of guilt -- a strict confession. [Footnote 7
] Facts admitted that are immaterial as to
guilt or innocence need no discussion. But statements of the
accused out of court that show essential elements of the crime,
here, payment of money, necessary to supplement an otherwise
inadequate basis for a verdict of conviction, stand differently.
Such admissions have the same possibilities for error as
confessions. They, too, must be corroborated. See Wilson v.
United States, 162 U. S. 613
162 U. S.
It is urged by the Government, however, that such requirement
should not apply to exculpatory statements -- that is, those that
explain actions, rather than admit guilt. It is thought that
exculpatory statements do not have behind them the pressure of
coercion or the inducement of escaping the consequences of crime.
Page 348 U. S. 92
with Professor Wigmore's view. See note 7 supra.
The statements here are
There is no
opinion of this Court declaring or declining such an exception.
] We conclude that
exculpatory statements, however, may not differ from other
admissions of incriminating facts. Given when the accused is under
suspicion, they become questionable just as testimony by witnesses
to other extrajudicial statements of the accused. They call for
corroboration to the same extent as other statements.
We next consider the extent of the
corroboration of admissions necessary as a matter of law for a
judgment of conviction. On this point, the cases in the federal
courts show divergence. One line of cases follows the rule set out
in Daeche v. United States,
250 F. 566, that the
corroborative evidence is sufficient if it touches the corpus
"in the sense of the injury against whose occurrence
the law is directed," 250 F. at 571, and is of a type which goes to
fortify the truthfulness of the confession. [Footnote 9
] Some cases would seem only to require
the latter half of the Daeche
rule -- that is, proof of
any corroborating circumstances is adequate which goes to fortify
the truth of the confession or tends to prove facts embraced in the
confession. There is no necessity that such proof touch the
at all, though, of course, the facts of the
admission, plus the corroborating evidence, must establish all
elements of the crime. [Footnote
Page 348 U. S. 93
Other decisions tend to follow the rule enunciated in Forte
v. United States,
68 App.D.C. 111, 94 F.2d 236, 240, 244, that
the corroboration must consist of substantial evidence, independent
of the accused's extrajudicial statements, which tends to establish
the whole of the corpus delicti.
Whether the differences in quantum and type of independent proof
are in principle or of expression is difficult to determine. Each
case has its own facts admitted and its own corroborative evidence,
which leads to patent individualization of the opinions. However,
we think the better rule to be that the corroborative evidence need
not be sufficient, independent of the statements, to establish the
It is necessary, therefore, to require the
Government to introduce substantial independent evidence which
would tend to establish the trustworthiness of the statement. Thus,
the independent evidence serves a dual function. It tends to make
the admission reliable, thus corroborating it while also
establishing independently the other necessary elements of the
offense. Smith v. United States, post,
p. 348 U. S. 147
is sufficient if the corroboration supports the essential facts
admitted sufficiently to justify a jury inference of their truth.
Those facts plus the other evidence besides the admission must, of
course, be sufficient to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Turning to the instant case, it is clear that there was
substantial independent evidence to establish directly the
Page 348 U. S. 94
truthfulness of petitioner's admission that he paid the
government employee money. [Footnote 12
] But this direct corroborative evidence
tending to prove the truthfulness of petitioner's statements would
not establish a corpus delicti
of the offense charged.
Rather, it tends to establish only one element of the offense --
payment of money. The Government therefore had to prove the other
element of the corpus delicti
-- rendering of services by
the government employee -- entirely by independent evidence.
independent evidence of services and of facts within the admissions
seems adequate to constitute corroboration of petitioner's
extrajudicial admissions and also establish the corpus
The jury was free therefore to consider the
admissions in connection with all the other evidence in the case,
and to decide whether the guilt of the petitioner had been
established beyond a reasonable doubt. They found that it was, and
we feel that such finding is supported by substantial evidence.
Petitioner's final complaint arises out of the
fact that the conspirators were tried jointly. The petitioner feels
that the jury might have become confused and improperly considered
statements of codefendant Hollifield in reaching its verdict as to
petitioner. Other than this general possibility of confusion, he
points out nothing specifically prejudicial resulting from the
joint trial. The fact that the Court of Appeals below reversed on
two counts because of lack of evidence independent of statements of
Hollifield is emphasized to bolster this claim of error as to the
Page 348 U. S. 95
It was within the sound discretion of the trial judge as to
whether the defendants should be tried together or severally, and
there is nothing in the record to indicate an abuse of such
discretion when petitioner's motion for severance was overruled.
The trial judge here made clear and repeated admonitions to the
jury at appropriate times that Hollifield's incriminatory
statements were not to be considered in establishing the guilt of
the petitioner. [Footnote
] To say that the jury might have been confused amounts to
nothing more than an unfounded speculation that the jurors
disregarded clear instructions of the court in arriving at their
verdict. Our theory of trial relies upon the ability of a jury to
follow instructions. There is nothing in this record to call for
reversal because of any confusion or injustice arising from the
joint trial. The record contains substantial competent evidence
upon which the jury could find petitioner guilty. The judgment
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER concurs in the result.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, believing that Forte v. United
68 App.D.C. 111, 94 F.2d 236, states the better rule
on corroboration, would reverse the judgment below.
18 U.S.C. § 281:
"Whoever, being . . . [an] officer or employee of the United
States or any department or agency thereof, directly or indirectly
receives or agrees to receive, any compensation for any services
rendered or to be rendered, either by himself or another, in
relation to any proceeding, contract, claim, controversy, charge,
accusation, arrest, or other matter in which the United States is a
party or directly or indirectly interested, before any department,
agency, court martial, officer, or any civil, military, or naval
commission, shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not
more than two years, or both, and shall be incapable of holding any
office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States."
"(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or
aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its
commission, is punishable as a principal"
Warszower v. United States, 312 U.
; Calderon v. United States,
377; Pines v. United States,
123 F.2d 825; Gulotta v.
113 F.2d 683.
The three questions as set out by the petitioner upon which
certiorari was granted are:
"3. Whether, where an admission is made to law enforcement
officers after the date of the acts charged as crimes, it is to be
so far treated as a confession that, in the absence of
corroboration, it is inadmissible."
"4. Whether a conviction can be sustained where there is, apart
from an admission made to law enforcement officers after the date
of the acts charged as crimes, no proof of the corpus
"5. Whether, in convicting petitioner the jury, and in
sustaining his conviction the court below, in fact admitted, as
against him, statements of his co-defendant which, as a matter of
law, were not competent evidence against him."
347 U.S. 1010.
The memorandum, although signed by another, bore Hollifield's
initials and embodied the reasons he had orally urged at the
In some cases, a person may be convicted on his own confession
without any corroborating evidence. 9 Halsbury's Laws of England
(2d ed.) § 291, p. 207; § 268, p. 183, note g; I Phillipps and
Arnold, Evidence (5th Am. ed.), p. 441. In manslaughter, this
conclusion is cautiously applied. Regina v. Burton,
Dearsly's Crown Cases (1852-1856) 282. Proof of the corpus
is required. Halsbury, supra,
§ 768; R.
25 Cr.App.R. 21.
American Law Institute Model Code of Evidence,
adopted May 15, 1942, Foreword, Professor Edmund M. Morgan, 36,
Rule 501; Wigmore, Evidence (3d ed.), § 1048.
"A confession is an acknowledgement in express words,
by the accused in a criminal case, of the truth of the guilty
fact charged or of some essential part of it.
Professor Wigmore excludes from the rule of corroboration
denying guilt, cannot be
confessions. This ought to be plain enough, if legal terms are to
have any meaning and if the spirit of the general principle is to
Also, "acknowledgments of subordinate facts colorless with
reference to actual guilt."
"An acknowledgment of a subordinate fact, not directly
or, in other words, not essential to the
crime charged, is not a confession; because the supposed ground of
untrustworthiness of confessions . . . is that a strong motive
impels the accused to expose and declare his guilt as the price of
purchasing immunity from present pain or subsequent punishment; and
thus, by hypothesis, there must be some quality of guilt in the
fact acknowledged. Confessions are thus only one species of
admissions, and all other admissions than those which directly
touch the fact of guilt are without the scope of the peculiar rules
affecting the use of confessions."
Wigmore, Evidence (3d ed.), § 821.
Bram v. United States, 168 U.
, an important case in the field of admissions,
excludes such a statement on the ground of coercion, not
exculpation. 168 U.S. at 168 U. S.
E.g., Jordan v. United States,
60 F.2d 4; United
States v. Kertess,
139 F.2d 923; Forlini v. United
12 F.2d 631, 634.
Accord, United States v. Williams,
28 Fed.Cas., No.
16,707, pp. 636, 644; Pearlman v. United States,
460; Wynkoop v. United States,
22 F.2d 799; Bolland v.
238 F. 529, 530.
Ercoli v. United States,
76 U.S.App.D.C. 360, 131 F.2d
354, 355, 356, 357, following and reaffirming Forte,
states the rule to be that corroboration which merely tends to
support the confession is insufficient, as it must also embrace
substantial evidence touching and tending to prove each of the main
elements or constituent parts of the corpus delicti.
following this rule, e.g., Pines v. United States,
F.2d 825; Ryan v. United States,
99 F.2d 864; United
States v. Fenwick,
177 F.2d 488.
(1) The long-distance call from Hollifield's home to
petitioner's home on April 13, 1951. (2) Petitioner's $1,000 check
dated April 13, 1951. (3) The airline tickets in Hollifield's name
for a flight to Chicago on April 14, 1951.
This was accomplished by introduction of substantially
uncontroverted evidence of Hollifield's efforts in gaining
acceptance by the Government of petitioner's previously rejected
Rule 14, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure; United States
v. Ball, 163 U. S. 662
163 U. S. 672
Waldeck v. United States,
2 F.2d 243; Olmstead v.
19 F.2d 842; Metcalf v. United States,
195 F.2d 213, 217.