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U.S. Supreme Court

Williams v. Great Southern Lumber Co., 277 U.S. 19 (1928)

Williams v. Great Southern Lumber Co.

No. 252

Argued March 1, 2, 1928

Decided April 16, 1928

277 U.S. 19


1. Plaintiff sought damages from the defendant Lumber Company for the death of her husband, alleging that the company had conspired with others to kill him and break up a local labor union of which he was the head, and that his death, which occurred through shooting when warrants were being served on three other men in his office, was the result of such conspiracy. A crucial issue was whether the party that killed him was in character a mob acting with the company or a bona fide posse sent by the Chief of Police to aid a city policeman in making the arrests, and upon this issue the reason had by the Chief of Police for sending a posse was of prime importance. Respecting this, it appeared, among other facts (detailed in the opinion), that, on the morning when the shooting occurred, the three men, for one of whom a warrant had already been issued, were seen on the street, the other two armed with shotguns; that the three walked together along the main street chanrobles.com-red

Page 277 U. S. 20

of the city causing excitement among bystanders, and entered the decedent's office; that a policeman who saw them notified the Chief of Police, and that the Chief of Police obtained a warrant for arrest of the two armed men, charging breach of the peace, lodged it and the other warrant with a paid policeman for service, and, in view of conditions threatening to the public peace and the reported conduct of the two armed men, deemed it advisable to send the posse with the arresting officer. The trial judge charged that a citizen carrying arms publicly on the street committed no offense for which he was subject to arrest. Held erroneous to exclude evidence offered by the defendant company, showing that these two men, while walking the streets armed, had used threatening language, amounting in the circumstances to a breach of the peace, and that this had been communicated to the Chief of Police before he procured the warrants and ordered out the posse. P. 277 U. S. 24.

2. In an action for the death of a man, based on an alleged conspiracy to kill him, a statement, 15 minutes after the killing, made by one of the party that did it, to the effect that they had come to kill the deceased and had killed him, held inadmissible against the defendant as a part of the res gestae. P. 277 U. S. 25.

3. Since the passage of the Act of 1919, amending Jud.Code § 269, as before, an error which relates not to merely formal or technical matters, but to the substantial rights of the parties is ground for reversal unless it appears from the whole record that it was harmless and did not prejudice the rights of the complaining party. P. 277 U. S. 26.

17 F.2d 468 affirmed.

Certiorari, 275 U.S. 511, to a judgment of the circuit court of appeals which reversed a judgment recovered in the district court, 13 F.2d 246, in an action brought by the present petitioner against the respondent Lumber Company, based on the alleged unlawful killing of her husband. Petitioner sued for herself and as tutrix of a minor child. chanrobles.com-red

Page 277 U. S. 21


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