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REAGAN V. UNITED STATES, 157 U. S. 301 (1895)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Reagan v. United States, 157 U.S. 301 (1895)

Reagan v. United States

No. 755

Submitted March 4, 1895

Decided March 25, 1895

157 U.S. 301


The offense of knowingly smuggling or clandestinely introducing goods etc., subject to duty into the United States without paying such duty, in violation of the provisions of Rev.Stat. § 2865, and of concealing such smuggled goods, is only ,a misdemeanor, and the defendant is only entitled to three peremptory challenges.

When a person accused of crime offers himself as a witness in his own behalf, the court is not at liberty to charge the jury directly or indirectly that the defendant is to be disbelieved because he is a defendant; but, on the other hand, the court may, and sometimes ought to, remind the jury that interest creates a motive for false testimony; that the greater the interest, the stronger is the temptation, and that the interest of the defendant in the result of the trial is of a character possessed by no other witness, and is therefore a matter which may seriously affect the credence that shall be given to his testimony.

In this case, the defendant, accused of the offense of smuggling, was a witness on his own behalf. The court instructed the jury thus:

"You should especially look to the interest which the respective witnesses have in the suit or in its result. Where the witness has a direct personal interest in the result of the suit, the temptation is strong to color, pervert, or withhold the facts. The law permits the defendant at his own request, to testify in his own behalf. The defendant here has availed himself of this privilege. His testimony is before you, and you must determine how far it is credible. The deep personal interest which he may have in the result of the suit should be considered by the jury in weighing his evidence and in determining how far or to what extent, if at all, it is worthy of credit."

Held that there was in this instruction nothing of which complaint could reasonably be made.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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