Anderson v. United States
Annotate this Case
417 U.S. 211 (1974)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Anderson v. United States, 417 U.S. 211 (1974)
Anderson v. United States
Argued March 19, 1974
Decided June 3, 1974
417 U.S. 211
For having conspired to cast fictitious votes for federal, state, and local candidates in a West Virginia primary election, petitioners were convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 241, which makes it unlawful to conspire to injure any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. At the trial, over petitioners' objections, certain statements made by two of the petitioners at a local election contest hearing held after the election results had been certified on May 27, 1970, were admitted in evidence against all the petitioners to prove that the two petitioners making the statements had perjured themselves at the election contest hearing. On appeal, the petitioners contended for the first time that § 241 was limited to conspiracies to cast false votes in federal elections, and that, accordingly, the conspiracy charged in their case, as far as federal jurisdiction was concerned, ended on May 27, so that subsequent out-of-court statements could not have furthered any § 241 conspiracy, and hence should not have been admitted in evidence. The Court of Appeals rejected these contentions, and affirmed the convictions.
1. The out-of-court statements were admissible under basic principles of the law of evidence and conspiracy, regardless of whether or not § 241 encompasses conspiracies to cast fraudulent votes in state and local elections. Pp. 417 U. S. 214-222.
(a) The statements were not hearsay, since they were not offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted; hence their admissibility was governed by the rule that acts of one alleged conspirator can be admitted into evidence against the other conspirators, if relevant to prove the existence of the conspiracy, even though they may have occurred after the conspiracy ended. Lutwak v. United States, 344 U. S. 604. Pp. 417 U. S. 219-221.
(b) Since the statements were not hearsay, the jury did not have to make a preliminary finding that the conspiracy charged
was still in progress before it could consider them as evidence against the other defendants, and accordingly the statements were admissible if relevant to prove the conspiracy charged. P. 417 U. S. 221.
(c) Even if the federal conspiracy ended on May 27, the fact that two of the petitioners perjured themselves at the local election contest hearing was relevant and admissible to prove the underlying motive of the conspiracy. Accordingly, in order to rule on petitioners' challenge to the admissibility of this evidence, there was no need for the Court of Appeals, and there is no need for this Court, to decide whether petitioners' conspiracy ended on May 27 for purposes of federal jurisdiction or whether § 241 applies to conspiracies to cast fraudulent votes in local elections. Pp. 417 U. S. 221-222.
2. The evidence amply supports the verdict that each of the petitioners engaged in the conspiracy with the intent of having false votes cast for the federal candidates. Pp. 417 U. S. 222-228.
(a) The fact that petitioners' primary motive was to affect the result in the local, rather than the federal, election has no significance, since although a single conspiracy may have several purposes, if one of them -- whether primary or secondary -- violates a federal law, the conspiracy is unlawful under federal law. Pp. 417 U. S. 225-226.
(b) That the petitioners may have had no purpose to change the outcome of the federal election is irrelevant, since that is not the specific intent required under § 241, but rather the intent to have false votes cast, and thereby to injure the right of all voters in a federal election to have their expressions of choice given full value, without dilution or distortion by fraudulent balloting. Pp. 417 U. S. 226-227.
(c) Even assuming, arguendo, that § 241 is limited to conspiracies to cast false votes for federal candidates, it was not plain error for the District Court's jury instructions not to focus specifically upon the federal conspiracy, since, in view of the fact that the prosecution's case showed a single conspiracy to cast entire slates of false votes and the defense consisted primarily of a challenge to the Government witnesses' credibility, it is inconceivable that, even if charged by more specific instructions, the jury could have found a conspiracy to cast false votes for local offices without also finding a similar conspiracy affecting the federal offices. Pp. 417 U. S. 227-228.
481 F.2d 685, affirmed.
MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 417 U. S. 228.