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GREENE V. HENKEL, 183 U. S. 249 (1902)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Greene v. Henkel, 183 U.S. 249 (1902)

Greene v. Henkel

Argued November 26-27, 1901

Decided January 6, 1902

183 U.S. 249


A fair interpretation of the language used by the district judge in the court below in granting the application for a warrant of removal from New York to Georgia shows that, from the evidence, he was of opinion that there existed probable cause, and that the defendants should therefore be removed for trial before the court in which the indictment was found.

In proceedings touching the removal of a person indicted in another state from that in which he is found to that in which the indictment is found this Court must assume, in the absence of the evidence before the court below, that its finding of probable cause was sustained by competent evidence.

It is not a condition precedent to taking action under Rev.Stat. § 1014 that an indictment for the offense should have been found.

The finding of an indictment does not preclude the government, under Rev.Stat. § 1014, from giving evidence of a certain and definite character concerning the commission of the offense by the defendants in regard to acts, times, and circumstances which are stated in the indictment itself with less minuteness and detail.

Upon this writ, the point to be decided is whether the judge who made the order for the removal of the defendants had jurisdiction to make it, and if he had the question whether, upon the merits, he ought to have made it is not one which can be reviewed by means of a writ of habeas corpus.

The indictment in this case is prima facie good, and when a copy of it is certified by the proper officer, a magistrate acting pursuant to Rev.Stat. § 1014 is justified in treating the instrument as an indictment found by a competent grand jury, and is not authorized to go into evidence which chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 183 U. S. 250

may show or tend to show violations of the United States statutes in the drawing of the jurors composing the grand jury which found the indictment. By a removal such as was made in this case, the constitutional rights of the defendants were in no way taken from them.

This case is brought here by the appellants for the purpose of obtaining a review of the order of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York denying their application for a writ of habeas corpus. The proceeding which led up to the application for the writ was commenced under section 1014 of the Revised Statutes, which reads as follows:

"For any crime or offense against the United States, the offender may, by any justice or judge of the United States, or by any commissioner of a circuit court to take bail, or by any chancellor, judge of a supreme or superior court, chief or first judge of common pleas, mayor of a city, justice of the peace, or other magistrate, of any state where he may be found, and agreeably to the usual mode of process against offenders in such state, and at the expense of the United States, be arrested and imprisoned, or bailed, as the case may be, for trial before such court of the United States as by law has cognizance of the offense. Copies of the process shall be returned as speedily as may be into the clerk's office of such court, together with the recognizances of the witnesses for their appearance to testify in the case. And where any offender or witness is committed in any district other than that where the offense is to be tried, it shall be the duty of the judge of the district where such offender or witness is imprisoned seasonably to issue, and of the marshal to execute, a warrant for his removal to the district where the trial is to be had."

The appellants were at the time of the commencement of the proceeding nonresidents of the State of Georgia, one of them being a resident of the State of Connecticut, two residing in the State of New York, and one in the State of Massachusetts. The proceeding was inaugurated in the Southern District of New York, where one of the assistants of the United States district attorney for that district, on December 13, chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 183 U. S. 251

1899, made a sworn complaint in writing before United States Commissioner Shields, residing in that district, which complaint in substance charged upon information and belief the commission by the defendants, in the Southern District of Georgia, of the crime of conspiracy to defraud the United States of divers large sums of money by means of a fraudulent scheme devised by the defendants together with one Oberlin M. Carter, a captain of the Corps of Engineers, United States Army; that the scheme was first devised and put in operation in the Southern District of Georgia in or about the year 1891, and had been continuously in process of execution there by the defendants from that time until October 1, 1899. The complaint also recites, with some detail, certain acts of the defendants by which the conspiracy was effectuated and accomplished, and it also stated that complainant's belief in regard to the charge made by him was based upon information contained in an indictment found by the grand jury of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia on December 8, 1899, and he alleged that bench warrants had been issued for the arrest of the defendants from the clerk's office of that court on December 9, 1899, and he was informed and believed that the defendants were then in the Southern District of New York. A certified copy of the indictment was attached and made a part of the complaint before the commissioner, who thereupon issued a warrant reciting the substance of the complaint and directing the arrest of the defendants and their production before him to be dealt with according to law.

The defendants, upon being notified of the issuing of the warrants, at once appeared before the commissioner and asked for an examination, pending which they were enlarged upon bail. In the course of the examination and in addition to the complaint already made, the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, on January 13, 1900, filed a deposition detailing certain acts of one or more of the defendants performed by them in order to effect and further the conspiracy set forth in the indictment referred to in his original complaint.

Upon the examination, the defendants offered evidence tending chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 183 U. S. 252

to show a want of probable cause for believing them guilty of the charge made by the assistant district attorney. All evidence of this nature was objected to by counsel for the government and was excluded by the commissioner, who held that the indictment found in the district court in Georgia was conclusive evidence of probable cause, and that the only further evidence necessary was proof identifying the defendants as being the parties mentioned in the indictment, and, this proof being given, the commissioner committed them to the custody of the marshal of the Southern District of New York until a warrant for their removal to the Southern District of Georgia should issue by the United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, or until they should otherwise be dealt with according to law.

Application was thereupon made by the district attorney to the United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York for an order for the removal of the defendants under section 1014 of ey to the United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York for an order for the removal of the defendants under section 1014 of ey to the United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York for an order for the removal of the defendants under section 1014 of the Revised Statutes. At the hearing upon such application, the defendants maintained that the commissioner should have received the evidence of want of probable cause, which they offered, and thereupon the district judge made an order that,

"after hearing on exceptions and on application for order of removal, ordered that the matter be referred back to the commissioner for taking further competent testimony as offered by either party in accordance with the opinion filed herein."

In the opinion which he filed, the district judge held that the defendants were not concluded by the indictment, but were entitled to introduce evidence before the commissioner to show want of probable cause for believing them guilty of the offense charged.

Pursuant to the order of the district judge, the defendants again appeared before the commissioner, and a large amount of testimony pro and con was then taken by him on the question as to probable cause for believing the defendants guilty of the commission of the offense charged, as well as testimony concerning certain alleged irregularities in the drawing and organization of the grand jury which found the indictment upon which chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 183 U. S. 253

the removal of the defendants is sought. The irregularities consisted of alleged violations of the statute in relation to the drawing of jurors for the courts of the United States (section 2 of the Act of June 30, 1879, 21 Stat. 43), and were, as the defendants claimed, of such character as to render the organization of the grand jury illegal and to prevent such illegal body from finding any valid indictment. After all the testimony was in that either party desired to produce, the commissioner, on March 21, 1901, again committed the defendants to the custody of the marshal by an order in which he stated that,

"after full and fair examination touching the charge in the annexed warrant named, it appears from the testimony offered that there is probable cause to believe the defendants guilty of the charges therein contained."

Application was then made to the district judge for an order of removal, which application was opposed by the defendants on the ground that the evidence showed that there was no probable cause for believing them guilty of the charge, and also because the indictment spoken of was wholly void on the grounds mentioned. After argument, the judge decided that, as to the objections of illegality in the drawing of the grand jury, they could be heard before the trial court, and its decision thereon, if erroneous, could be corrected in the regular course of appeal. Upon the subject of the evidence regarding probable cause, the judge, in the course of his opinion, stated as follows:

"The commitment by the commissioner and his finding of probable cause have been made after an extremely full hearing of all the evidence offered on both sides. No evidence reasonably pertinent has been rejected. Objection is made that irrelevant and incompetent evidence offered by the government was received by him, but, as stated in the former decision, the evidence receivable in such preliminary examinations is not to be strictly limited by the technical rules applicable upon the final trial, and upon a charge of fraud, or of conspiracy to defraud, a somewhat wide latitude in the testimony is always allowed, even on the final hearing, for the purpose of showing the intent. The proof of the charges in this case does not consist of any direct and certain testimony of the commission of the

Page 183 U. S. 254

offenses charged, but rests upon many facts and circumstances in a long course of dealing, from which it is claimed that the inference of an unlawful intent to defraud the government must reasonably be inferred, and the bills alleged to be fraudulent in the last counts of the indictment are claimed to be fraudulent not so much because they were not according to contract as because the contracts themselves were fraudulent and procured through a fraudulent conspiracy with Captain Carter, an employee of the government. Considering the nature of the case, therefore, I find no such objections to the testimony admitted by the commissioner as to vitiate his findings or require reconsideration by him."

"As respects the finding of probable cause, I have carefully considered the very extended briefs and arguments of counsel, and have examined the voluminous evidence with a view to ascertain whether there was competent evidence before the commissioner sufficient in itself to sustain his finding of probable cause. Under the rule above stated, it is not for the judge, on an application for removal, to compare different parts of the testimony in order to determine their relative weight or to substitute his own judgment for that of the commissioner, even though it might on the whole evidence be different. By this, however, I do not mean to be understood as expressing any opinion whatsoever on the merits of the case. The defendants have given a great deal of evidence tending to show that their contracts were fairly obtained, their work well and honestly done, and that the government has not been defrauded of a dollar."

"The government, on the other hand, has given evidence tending to a contrary conclusion, and it has shown beyond question that Captain Carter, the employee of the government and the engineer in immediate charge of the work on the government's behalf, had for several years immediately preceding the contracts referred to in the indictment received from the contractors continuously, through his father-in-law, in many divisions of profits, one third of the final net proceeds of each contract remaining for division among the chief contractors, and that this one-third amounted in the aggregate to over

Page 183 U. S. 255

$700,000. This, it is claimed, gives significance and meaning to many other facts in evidence showing a fraudulent and illegal combination between the defendants and Captain Carter to benefit themselves at the expense of the government, and to procure the allowance and payment of excessive and fraudulent bills by means of contracts fraudulently procured."

"A case presenting such circumstances is especially one that should be submitted to a jury trial. Nor need there be any apprehension that an impartial court and jury will not reach essential justice, or that, while guarding jealously the honor and interests of the government, they will not also appreciate the legitimate rights of the defendants, the peculiar difficulties, risks, and hazards of such contract work, the excellence and merit of that which is well done, and the rights of the defendants by legitimate business methods to lessen competition and to secure as favorable contracts as they can, and determine fairly whether the contracts in question were fraudulent, or obtained by illegal methods, or by a conspiracy with the engineer in charge to abuse the opportunities of his position in order to despoil the government and obtain exorbitant prices for their common benefit."

"Having found in the previous decision that the ninth and tenth counts of the indictment are good, whatever may be held as to the counts preceding them, the defendants should be ordered to be removed for trial, or to give bail for their due appearance."

An order was thereupon made and the warrant signed by the judge on May 28, 1901, for the removal of the defendants to the Southern District of Georgia. On June 8, 1901, the defendants were surrendered by their bail to the custody of the marshal, and on that day they presented their petition to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York for a writ of habeas corpus, setting out the foregoing facts and the order for removal, which they alleged to be illegal and in violation of their constitutional rights. They also alleged in their petition that they were not in the State of Georgia at the time of the filing of the indictment, nor had they been since that time, and that, while they were in New York, and during chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 183 U. S. 256

the pendency of the proceedings before the commissioner to obtain their removal to the State of Georgia, and while they were under bail in such proceedings in the Southern District of New York, the United States district Attorney of Georgia on March 5, 1900, in a letter written at Macon, Georgia, notified the attorneys of the defendants that the case would be called in the United States District Court at Savannah on March 12, 1900, in order that the defendants in the indictment might appear and present and interpose any objections which they might desire to urge as to the impaneling of the grand jury which returned a true bill of indictment in their case, and such other objections as they might make to the validity of the indictment. The petition then proceeded as follows:

"That your petitioners are informed and believe that he now claims and insists that, because of your petitioners' failure to appear as above required, that they are barred and estopped in that court from questioning the illegality and validity of said alleged grand jury. If this contention be sustained, then, unless this court hears and passes on the said questions, these petitioners will be tried on the alleged indictment in said court in Georgia, although the fact is that such indictment was never found by any legally organized grand jury, but was presented and filed in court by a body of men purporting to be a grand jury in whose selection and drawing every statute of the United States relating thereto was disregarded and set at naught."

It was also stated in the petition that the petitioners were held for trial for an infamous crime, without the indictment of a grand jury and in violation of the rights secured to them by the Constitution of the United States; that, notwithstanding the invalidity of the indictment and the other facts stated in the petition, the United States marshal for the Southern District of New York detained the petitioners, and were about to remove them to the Eastern Division of the Southern District of Georgia for trial upon the pretended indictment and in pursuance of the proceedings had before the commissioner and the warrant of removal issued thereupon by the district judge; that the detention of the petitioners and their removal in pursuance of said proceedings and warrant were without authority of law, chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 183 U. S. 257

and that they were restrained of their liberty in violation of the Constitution of the United States, and that any further proceedings in pursuance thereof, or the further detention or imprisonment of the petitioners, would be unlawful. They therefore asked for a writ of habeas corpus to inquire into the lawfulness of their imprisonment. After a hearing upon the petition, the circuit court denied the application and from the order denying the writ the defendants appealed to this Court, which appeal was allowed and the defendant admitted to bail pending its decision.

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