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MARKHAM V. UNITED STATES, 160 U. S. 319 (1895)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Markham v. United States, 160 U.S. 319 (1895)

Markham v. United States

No. 544

Submitted November 18, 1895

Decided December 16, 1895

160 U.S. 319


An indictment for perjury in a deposition made before a special examiner of the Pension Bureau which charges the oath to have been willfully and corruptly taken before a named special examiner of the Pension Bureau of the United States, then and there a competent officer, and having lawful authority to administer said oath, is sufficient to inform the accused of the official character and authority of the officer before whom the oath was taken.

In such an indictment, it is not necessary to set forth all the details or facts involved in the issue as to the materiality of the statement, and as to the authority of the Commissioner of Pensions to institute the inquiry in which the deposition of the accused was taken.

The provision in Rev.Stat. § 1025 that

"no indictment found and presented by a grand jury in any district or circuit or other court of the United States shall be deemed insufficient, nor shall the trial, judgment, or other proceeding thereon be affected, by reason of any defect or imperfection in matter of form only which shall not tend to the prejudice of the defendant,"

is not to be interpreted as dispensing with the requirement in § 5396 that an indictment for perjury must set forth the substance of the offense charged. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 160 U. S. 320

An indictment for perjury that does not set forth the substance of the offense will not authorize judgment upon verdict of guilty. Dunbar v. United States, 156 U. S. 185, affirmed.

The plaintiff in error was indicted in the District Court of the United States for the District of Kentucky for the crime of perjury, as defined in section 5392 of the Revised Statutes.

The defendant pleaded not guilty. The first and second counts related to certain statements by the accused, alleged to have been willfully, falsely, and feloniously made, in a deposition, given, under oath, before G. C. Loomis, a special examiner of the Pension Bureau of the United States, such statements being material to an inquiry pending before the Commissioner of Pensions in reference to a claim of the accused for a pension from the United States. The third count set out another statement of the accused in the same deposition, and charged that he did not believe it to be true.

The defendant was found guilty upon the fourth count of the indictment, which was as follows:

"And the grand jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, do further present that at Bowling Green, in the district aforesaid, on the seventh day of October, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and ninety-two, the matter of the hereinafter mentioned deposition became and was material to an inquiry then pending before, and within the jurisdiction of, the Commissioner of Pensions of the United States at Washington, in the District of Columbia, whereupon said William H. Markham did then at said Bowling Green, willfully and corruptly take a solemn oath before G. C. Loomis, then and there a special examiner of the Pension Bureau of the United States, and then and there a competent officer and having lawful authority to administer said oath; that a certain written deposition then and there by said Markham subscribed was then and there true, and in giving said deposition said Markham was asked by said Loomis a question in substance and effect as follows, to-wit: 'Have you received any injury to forefinger of right hand since the war, or since your discharge from the army?', by which said question said

Page 160 U. S. 321

Loomis referred, and said Markham well understood said Loomis to refer, to the right hand of said Markham. And in answer to said question, said Markham then and there made and subscribed an answer and statement in substance and effect as follows, to-wit: 'No, sir; I never have' -- which said statement that said Markham never had received any injury to the forefinger of his right hand since his (said Markham's) discharge from the army was then and there material to said inquiry, and was then and there not true; whereas, in truth and in fact the said Markham had then and theretofore received an injury to the forefinger of his (said Markham's) right hand, as he, the said Markham, then and there very well knew. And so the jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, say that said Markham did commit willful and corrupt perjury, in the manner and form as in this count aforesaid, against,"

etc. There was no demurrer to the indictment nor any motion to quash either of the counts.

The defendant moved for an arrest of judgment upon the following grounds: 1st., that the count upon which he was found guilty charged no offense under the statute; 2d., that its averments did not inform the court that any offense had been committed, nor show that Loomis, the examiner, was authorized to administer the oath alleged; 3d., that the averments did not set forth the proceeding or cause in which the defendant was charged to have given his deposition, or made oath to the statement alleged to be false, in such manner as to show that the deposition and the alleged false statement were material to any inquiry or matter before the Commissioner of Pensions, nor the what said inquiry related, nor show that Loomis, special examiner, had any lawful authority to swear or require the defendant to swear to the deposition or statement averred to be false, nor for what purpose, nor upon what cause, or investigation of what claim, or of any claim, pending before any department of the government, or in any court; 4th., that it did not aver facts sufficient to show the materiality of the oath or statement alleged to have been made; 5th., that the words charged to have been sworn chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 160 U. S. 322

to by defendant were not averred to have been sworn to willfully and corruptly; 6th., that it failed to aver what charge was under investigation.

The motion in arrest of judgment was overruled, and the accused was sentenced to make his fine to the United States by the payment of $5, and to be imprisoned at hard labor in the Indiana State Prison, south at Jeffersonville, Indiana, for the full period of two years from a day named. From that judgment the present writ of error was prosecuted.

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