Appendix 1, Document 11. Court Ruling, 5 January 1843

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  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

OF THE .
—DECEMBER TERM, 1842.
BEFORE THE HONORABLE .
The following case was decided by , the district judge. Judge McLean does not attend the winter term in .
Ex Parte Joseph Smith, (the Mormon Prophet,) On Habeas Corpus.
& , counsel for Smith.
, attorney general, for the state of .
This case came before the court upon a return to a writ of habeas corpus, which was issued by this court on the 31st of December, 1842, upon a petition for a habeas corpus on the relation of Joseph Smith, setting forth that he was arrested and in custody of William F. Elkin, sheriff of , upon a warrant issued by the of the state of , upon a requisition of the of the state of , demanding him to be delivered up to the of , as a fugitive from justice; that his arrest, as aforesaid, was under color of a law of the [p. [121]] , and was without the authority of law in this, that he was not a fugitive from justice, nor had he fled from the state of .
Afterwards, on the same day, the sheriff of returned upon the said habeas corpus, that he detained the said Joseph Smith in custody, by virtue of a warrant issued by the of the state of , upon the requisition of the of the state of , made on the affidavit of . Copies of the said affidavit, requisition and warrant were annexed to the said return in the words and figures following:
“State of Missouri, ) ss.
County of , )
This day personally appeared before me, , a justice of the peace within and for the county of , the subscriber, , who, being duly sworn, doth depose and say, that on the night of the 6th day of May, 1842, while sitting in his dwelling in the town of , in the county of Jackson, he was shot with intent to kill, and that his life was despaired of for several days; and that he believes, and has good reason to believe, from evidence and information now in his possession, that Joseph Smith, commonly called the Mormon Prophet, was accessory before the fact of the intended murder; and that the said Joseph Smith is a citizen or resident of the state of ; and the said deponent hereby applies to the of the state of to make a demand on the of the state of , to deliver the said Joseph Smith, commonly called the Mormon Prophet, to some person authorised to receive and convey him to the state and aforesaid, there to be dealt with according to law.
.
Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 20th day of July, 1842.
, J. P.” [p. 122]
“The of the State of ,
To the of the State of greeting.
Whereas, It appears by the annexed document, which is hereby certified to be authentic, that one Joseph Smith is a fugitive from justice, charged with being accessory before the fact to an assault with intent to kill, made by one , on , in this , and it is represented to the executive department of this , has fled to the state of :
Now, therefore, I, , governor of the said state of , by virtue of the authority in me vested by the constitution and laws of the , do by these presents demand the surrender and delivery of the said Joseph Smith to , who is hereby appointed as the agent to receive the said Joseph Smith, on the part of this .
In testimony,” &c.
“The People of the State of ,
To the Sheriff of greeting.
Whereas, It has been made known to me by the Executive authority of the state of , that one Joseph Smith stands charged by the affidavit of one , made on the 20th day of July, 1842, at the county of , in the state of Missouri, before , a justice of the peace, within and for the county of aforesaid, with being accessory before the fact to an assault with an intent to kill, made by one , on , on the night of the 6th day of May, 1842, at the county of , in said state of Missouri, and that the said Joseph Smith has fled from the justice of said , and taken refuge in the state of :
Now, therefore, I, , governor of the state of , pursuant to the constitution and laws of the , and of this state, do hereby command you to arrest [p. 123] and apprehend the said Joseph Smith, if he be found within the limits of the aforesaid, and cause him to be safely kept and delivered to the custody of , who has been duly constituted the agent of the said state of , to receive said fugitive from the justice of said state, he paying all fees and charges for the arrest and apprehension of said Joseph Smith, and make due return to the executive department of this state, the manner in which this writ may be executed.
“In testimony whereof,” &c.
The case was set for hearing on the 4th day of January, 1843, on which day , attorney general of the state of , appeared, and moved to dismiss the proceedings, and filed the following objection to the jurisdiction of the court, viz:
“1st. The arrest and detention of Smith was not under or by color of authority of the , or of any officers of the , but under and by color of authority of the state of , by the officers of .
“2d. When a fugitive from justice is arrested by authority of the governor of any state, upon the requisition of the governor of another state, the courts of justice neither state nor federal, have any authority or jurisdiction to inquire into any facts behind the writ.”
The counsel of the said Joseph Smith then offered to read in evidence affidavits of several persons, showing conclusively that the said Joseph Smith was at , in the county of Hancock and state of Illinois, on the whole of the 6th and 7th days of May, in the year 1842, and on the evenings of those days, more than three hundred miles distant from , in the state of Missouri, where it is alleged that the said was shot, and that he had not been in the state of at any time between the 10th day of February and the 1st day of July, 1842, the said per [p. 124]sons having been with him during the whole of that period. That on the 6th day of May aforesaid, he attended an officers’ drill at aforesaid, in the presence of a large number of people, and on the 7th day of May aforesaid he reviewed the Legion in presence of many thousand people.
The reading of these affidavits was objected to by the of the state of , on the ground that it was not competent for Smith to impeach or contradict the return to the habeas corpus. It was contended by the counsel of the said Smith, 1st. That he had a right to prove that the return was untrue. 2d. That the said affidavits did not contradict the said return, as there was no averment under oath in said return that the said Smith was in at the time of the commission of the alleged crime, or had fled from the justice of that state. The court decided that the said affidavits should be read in evidence, subject to all objections; and they were read accordingly.
The cause was argued by and , for Smith, and by , attorney general of the state of , contra.
, counsel for Smith, made the following points:—
1. This court has jurisdiction.
The requisition purports on its face to be made, and the warrant to be issued, under the Constitution and laws of the , regulating the surrender of fugitives from justice.—2d sec. 4th article Const. U. S.—1st sec. of the act of Congress of 12th Feb. 1793.
When a person’s rights are invaded under a law of the , he has no remedy except in the courts of the —2d sec. 3d article Const. U. S. 12th Wend. 325. 16 Peters, 543.
The whole power in relation to the delivering up of fugi [p. 125]tives from justice and labor, has been delegated to the , and Congress have regulated the manner and form in which it shall be exercised. The power is exclusive. The state Legislatures have no right to interfere, and if they do, their acts are void.—2d and 3d clause of 2d sec. 4th article Constitution —2d vol. laws , 331. 16 Peters 617–18, 623. 4th Wheaton’s Rep. 122, 193. 12 Wend. 312.
All courts of the are authorised to issue writs of habeas corpus when the prisoner is confined under or by color of authority of the —Act of Congress of Sept. 24th, 1789, sec, 14, 2d Condensed 33. 3d Cranch, 447. 3d Peters, 193.
2. The return to the habeas corpus is not certain and sufficient to warrant the arrest and transportation of Smith.
In all cases on habeas corpus previous to indictment, the court will look into the depositions before the magistrate, and though the commitment be full and in form, yet if the testimony prove no crime, the court will discharge ex parte. Tayler 5th, Cowen 50.
The affidavit of does not show that Smith was charged with any crime committed by him in , nor that he was a fugitive from justice.
If the commitment be for a matter for which by law the prisoner is not liable to be punished, the court must discharge him. 3 Bac. 434.
The Executive of this state has no jurisdiction over the person of Smith to transport him to , unless he has fled from that .
3. The prisoner has a right to prove facts not repugnant to the return, and even to go behind the return and contradict it, unless committed under a judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction. 3d Bacon, 435, 438. 3 Peters, 202. Gale’s Rev. Laws of 323. [p. 126]
The testimony introduced by Smith at the hearing, showing conclusively that he was not a fugitive from justice, is not repugnant to the return.
, attorney general of the state of , in support of the points made by him, cited 2d Condensed Rep. 37; Gordon’s Digest, 73; Gale’s Statutes of , 318; Conkling, 85; 9th Wendell, 212.
And afterwards, on the 5th day of January, 1843, delivered the following
opinion.
The importance of this case, and the consequences which may flow from an erroneous precedent, affecting the lives and liberties of our citizens, have impelled the court to bestow upon it the most anxious consideration. The able arguments of the counsel for the respective parties, have been of great assistance in the examination of the important question arising in this cause.
When the patriots and wise men who framed our constitution were in anxious deliberation to form a perfect union among the states of the confederacy, two great sources of discord presented themselves to their consideration; the commerce between the states, and fugitives from justice and labor. The border collisions in other countries had been seen to be a fruitful source of war and bloodshed, and most wisely did the Constitution confer upon the National Government, the regulation of those matters, because of its exemption from the excited passions awakened by conflicts between neighboring states, and its ability alone to adopt a uniform rule, and establish uniform laws among all the states in those cases.
This case presents the important question arising under the constitution and laws of the , whether a citizen of the state of can be transported from his [p. 127] own to the state of , to be there tried for a crime, which, if he ever committed, was committed in the state of ; whether he can be transported to , as a fugitive from justice, when he has never fled from that state.
Joseph Smith is before the court, on habeas corpus, directed to the sheriff of , state of Illinois. The return shows that he is in custody under a warrant from the executive of , professedly issued in pursuance of the Constitution and laws of the , and of the state of , ordering said Smith to be delivered to the agent of the executive of , who had demanded him as a fugitive from justice, under the 2d section, 4th article of the constitution of the , and the act of Congress passed to carry into effect that article. The article is in these words, viz: “A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state, from which he fled, be delivered up to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.” The act of Congress made to carry into effect this article, directs that the demand be made on the executive of the state where the offender is found, and prescribes the proof to support the demand, viz: indictment or affidavit.
The court deemed it respectful to inform the and of the state of , of the action upon the habeas corpus. On the day appointed for the hearing, the of the state of appeared, and denied the jurisdiction of the court to grant the habeas corpus.
1st. Because the warrant was not issued under color or by authority of the , but by the state of .
2d. Because no habeas corpus can issue in this case from either the federal or state courts, to inquire into facts [p. 128] behind the writ. In support of the first point, a law of was read, declaring that whenever the executive of any other state shall demand of the executive of this , any person as a fugitive from justice, and shall have complied with the requisition of the act of Congress, in that case made and provided, it shall be the duty of the executive of this to issue his warrant to apprehend the said fugitive, &c. It would seem that this act does not purport to confer any additional power upon the executive of this , independent of the power conferred by the constitution and laws of the , but to make it the duty of the executive to obey and carry into effect the act of Congress. The warrant on its face purports to be issued in pursuance of the constitution and laws of the , as well as of the state of . To maintain the position that this warrant was not issued under color or by authority of the laws of the , it must be proved that the could not confer the power on the executive of . Because if Congress could and did confer it, no act of could take it away, for the reason that the constitution, and laws of the , passed in pursuance of it, and treaties, are the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding. This is enough to dispose of that point. If the legislature of , as is probable, intended to make it the duty of the governor to exercise the power granted by Congress, and no more, the executive would be acting by authority of the . It may be that the legislature of , appreciating the importance of the proper execution of those laws, and doubting whether the governor could be punished for refusing to carry them into effect, deemed it prudent to impose it as a duty, the neglect of which would expose him to impeachment. If it intended more, the law [p. 129] is unconstitutional and void. 16 Peters, 617. Prigg v. Pennsylvania.
In supporting the second point, the attorney general seemed to urge that there was greater sanctity in a warrant issued by the , than by an inferior officer. The court cannot assent to this distinction. This is a government of laws, which prescribes a rule of action, as obligatory upon the governor as upon the most obscure officer. The character and purposes of the habeas corpus are greatly misunderstood by those who suppose that it does not review the acts of an executive functionary. All who are familiar with English history, must know that it was extorted from an arbitrary monarch, and that it was hailed as a second magna charta, and that it was to protect the subject from arbitrary imprisonment by the king and his minions, which brought into existence that great palladium of liberty in the latter part of the reign of Charles the Second. It was indeed a magnificent achievement over arbitrary power. Magna Charta established the principles of liberty; the habeas corpus protected them. It matters not how great or obscure the prisoner, how great or obscure the prison-keeper, this munificent writ, wielded by an independent judge, reaches all. It penetrates alike the royal towers and the local prisons, from the garret to the secret recesses of the dungeon. All doors fly open at its command, and the shackles fall from the limbs of prisoners of state as readily as from those committed by subordinate officers. The warrant of the king and his secretary of state could claim no more exemption from that searching inquiry, “The cause of his caption and detention,” than a warrant granted by a justice of the peace. It is contended that the is a government of granted powers, and that no department of it can exercise powers not granted. This is true. But the grant is to be found in the 2d section of the 3d article of the Constitution of the : [p. 130] “The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law, or equity, arising under this constitution, the laws of the , and treaties made and which shall be made under their authority.”
The matter under consideration presents a case arising under the 2d section, 4th article of the Constitution of the , and the act of Congress of February 12th, 1793, to carry it into effect. The judiciary act of 1789 confers on this court (indeed on all the courts of the ,) power to issue the writ of habeas corpus, when a person is confined “under color of or by the authority of the .” Smith is in custody under color of, and by authority of the 2d section, 4th article of the Constitution of the . As to the instrument employed or authorised to carry into effect that article of the Constitution (as he derives from it the authority to issue the warrant,) he must be regarded as acting by the authority of the . The power is not official in the governor, but personal. It might have been granted to any one else by name, but considerations of convenience and policy recommended the selection of the executive, who never dies. The citizens of the states are citizens of the ; hence the are as much bound to afford them protection in their sphere, as the states are in theirs.
This court has jurisdiction. Whether the state courts have jurisdiction or not, this court is not called upon to decide.
The return of the sheriff shows that he has arrested and now holds in custody Joseph Smith, in virtue of a warrant issued by the of , under the 2d section of the 4th article of the Constitution of the , relative to fugitives from justice, and the act of Congress passed to carry it into effect. The article of the constitution does not designate the person upon whom the demand [p. 131] for the fugitive shall be made; nor does it prescribe the proof upon which he shall act. But Congress has done so. The proof is “an indictment or affidavit,” to be certified by the demanding. The return brings before the court the warrant, the demand and the affidavit. The material part of the latter is in these words, viz:—“, who being duly sworn, doth depose and say, that on the night of the 6th day of May, 1842, while sitting in his dwelling in the town of , in the county of Jackson, he was shot with intent to kill; and that his life was despaired of for several days, and that he believes, and has good reason to believe, from evidence and information now in his possession, that Joseph Smith, commonly called the Mormon prophet, was accessary before the fact of the intended murder, and that the said Joseph Smith is a citizen or a resident of the state of .”
This affidavit is certified by the of to be authentic. The affidavit being thus verified, furnished the only evidence upon which the of could act. Smith presented affidavits proving that he was not in at the date of the shooting of . This testimony was objected to by the of , on the ground that the court could not look behind the return. The court deems it unnecessary to decide that point, inasmuch as it thinks Smith entitled to his discharge for defect in the affidavit. To authorise the arrest in this case, the affidavit should have stated distinctly, 1st. That Smith had committed a crime. 2d. That he committed it in .
It must appear that he fled from , to authorise the of to demand him, as none other than the of the from which he fled, can make the demand. He could not have fled from justice, unless he committed a crime, which does not appear. It must appear that the crime was committed in , to warrant [p. 132] the of in ordering him to be sent to for trial. The 2d section, 4th article, declares, he “shall be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.”
As it is not charged that the crime was committed by Smith in , the of could not cause him to be removed to that , unless it can be maintained that the state of can entertain jurisdiction of crimes committed in other states. The affirmative of this proposition was taken in the argument with a zeal indicating sincerity. But no adjudged case or dictum was adduced in support of it. The court conceives that none can be. Let it be tested by principle.
Man in a state of nature is a sovereign, with all the prerogatives of king, lords and commons. He may declare war and make peace, and, as nations often do who “feel power and forget right,” may oppress, rob and subjugate his weaker and unoffending neighbors. He unites in his person the legislative, judicial and executive power—“can do no wrong,” because there is none to hold him to account. But when he unites himself with a community, he lays down all the prerogatives of sovereign, (except self-defence,) and becomes a subject. He owes obedience to its laws and the judgments of its tribunals, which he is supposed to have participated in establishing, either directly or indirectly. He surrenders, also, the right of self-redress. In consideration of all which, he is entitled to the aegis of that community to defend him from wrongs. He takes upon himself no allegiance to any other community, so owes it no obedience, and therefore cannot disobey it. None other than his own sovereign can prescribe a rule of action to him. Each sovereign regulates the conduct of its subjects, and they may be punished upon the assumption that they know the rule and have consented to be governed by it. It would be a gross violation of the social compact, [p. 133] if the state were to deliver up one of its citizens to be tried and punished by a foreign state, to which he owes no allegiance, and whose laws were never binding on him. No state can or will do it.
In the absence of the constitutional provision, the state of would stand on this subject in the same relation to the state of , that Spain does to England. In this particular, the states are independent of each other. A criminal, fugitive from the one state to the other, could not be claimed as of right to be given up. It is most true, as mentioned by writers on the laws of nations, that every state is responsible to its neighbors for the conduct of its citizens, so far as their conduct violates the principles of good neighborhood. So it is among private individuals.— But for this, the inviolability of territory, or private dwelling, could not be maintained. This obligation creates the right, and makes it the duty of the state to impose such restraints upon the citizen, as the occasion demands. It was in the performance of this duty, that the passed laws to restrain citizens of the from setting on foot and fitting out military expeditions against their neighbors. While the violators of this law kept themselves within the , their conduct was cognizable in the courts of the , and not of the offended state, even if the means provided had assisted in the invasion of the foreign state. A demand by the injured state upon the for the offenders, whose operations were in their own country, would be answered, that the ’ laws alone could act upon them, and that, as a good neighbor, it would punish them.
It is the duty of the state of to make it criminal in one of its citizens to aid, abet, counsel, or advise, any person to commit a crime in her sister state. Any one violating the law would be amenable to the laws of , executed by its own tribunals. Those of could [p. 134] have no agency in his conviction and punishment. But if he shall go into , he owes obedience to her laws, and is liable before her courts, to be tried and punished for any crime he may commit there; and a plea that he was a citizen of another state, would not avail him. If he escape, he may be surrendered to for trial. But when the offence is perpetrated in , the only right of is, to insist that compel her citizens to forbear to annoy her. This she has a right to expect. For the neglect of it, nations go to war and violate territory.
The court must hold that where a necessary fact is not stated in the affidavit, it does not exist. It is not averred that Smith was accessary before the fact, in the state of , nor that he committed a crime in : therefore, he did not commit the crime in —did not flee from to avoid punishment.
Again, the affidavit charges the shooting on the 6th of May, in the county of , and state of Missouri, “that he believes and has good reason to believe, from evidence and information now (then) in his possession, that Joseph Smith was accessary before the fact, and is a resident or citizen of .”
There are several objections to this. having the “evidence and information in his possession,” should have incorporated it in the affidavit, to enable the court to judge of their sufficiency to support his “belief.” Again, he swears to a legal conclusion, when he says that Smith was accessary before the fact. What acts constitute a man an accessary is a question of law, and not always of easy solution. ’ opinion, then, is not authority. He should have given the facts. He should have shown that they were committed in , to enable the court to test them by the laws of , to see if they amounted to a crime. Again, the affidavit is fatally defective in this, that swears to his belief. [p. 135]
The language in the constitution is, “charged with felony, or other crime.” Is the constitution satisfied with a charge upon suspicion? It is to be regretted that no American adjudged case has been cited to guide the court in expounding this article. Language is ever interpreted by the subject matter. If the object were to arrest a man near home, and there were fears of escape if the movement to detain him for examination were known, the word charged might warrant the issuing of a capias on suspicion. Rudyard, (reported in Skin.) 676, was committed to Newgate for refusing to give bail for his good behavior, and was brought before the common pleas on habeas corpus. The return was, that he had been complained of for exciting the subjects to disobedience of the laws against seditious conventicles, and upon examination they found cause to suspect him. Vaughan, chief justice, “Tyrrel and Archer v. Wild, held the return insufficient—1st. because it did not appear but that he might abet frequenters of conventicles in the way the law allows; 2d. to say that he was complained of, or was examined, is no proof of his guilt; and then to say that he had cause to suspect him, is too cautious; for who can tell what they count a cause of suspicion, and how can that ever be tried? At this rate they would have arbitrary power, upon their own allegation, to commit whom they pleased.”
From this case, it appears that suspicion does not warrant a commitment, and that all legal intendments are to avail the prisoner. That the return is to be most strictly construed in favor of liberty. If suspicion in the foregoing case did not warrant a commitment in London by its officers, of a citizen of London, might not the objection be urged with greater force against a commitment of a citizen of our , to be transported to another, on suspicion? No case can arise demanding a more searching scrutiny into the evidence, than in cases arising under this part of [p. 136] the constitution of the . It is proposed to deprive a freeman of his liberty—to deliver him into the custody of strangers, to be transported to a foreign state, to be arraigned for trial before a foreign tribunal, governed by laws unknown to him—separated from his friends, his family and his witnesses, unknown and unknowing. Had he an immaculate character, it would not avail him with strangers. Such a spectacle is appalling enough to challenge the strictest analysis.
The framers of the constitution were not insensible of the importance of courts possessing the confidence of the parties. They therefore provided that citizens of the different states might resort to the federal courts in civil causes. How much more important that the criminal have confidence in his judge and jury? Therefore, before the capias is issued, the officers should see that the case is made out to warrant it.
Again, was shot on the 6th of May. The affidavit was made on the 20th of July following. Here was time for inquiry, which would confirm into certainty or dissipate his suspicions. He had time to collect facts to be laid before a grand jury, or be incorporated in his affidavit. The court is bound to assume that this would have been the course of , but that his suspicions were light and unsatisfactory.
The affidavit is insufficient—1st. because it is not positive; 2d. because it charges no crime; 3d. it charges no crime committed in the state of . Therefore, he did not flee from the justice of the state of , nor has he taken refuge in the state of .
The proceedings in this affair, from the affidavit to the arrest, afford a lesson to governors and judges, whose action may hereafter be invoked in cases of this character.
The affidavit simply says that the was shot with intent to kill, and he believes that Smith was accessory [p. 137] before the fact to the intended murder, and is a citizen or resident of the state of . It is not said who shot him, or that the person was unknown.
The of , in his demand, calls Smith a fugitive from justice, charged with being accessary before the fact to an assault with intent to kill, made by one , on , in this state (). This expressly refers to the affidavit as his authority for that statement. , in his affidavit, does not call Smith a fugitive from justice, nor does he state a fact from which the had a right to infer it. Neither does the name of appear in the affidavit, nor does say Smith fled. Yet the says he fled to the state of . But only says he is a citizen or resident of the state of .
The of , responding to the demand of the executive of for the arrest of Smith, issues his warrant for the arrest of Smith, reciting that—“whereas, Joseph Smith stands charged, by the affidavit of , with being accessary before the fact to an assault with intent to kill, made by one , on , on the night of the 6th day of May, 1842, at the county of , in the said state of Missouri, and that the said Joseph Smith has fled from the justice of said , and taken refuge in the state of .”
Those facts do not appear by the affidavit of . On the contrary, it does not assert that Smith was accessary to , nor that he had fled from the justice of the state of , and taken refuge in the state of .
The court can alone regard the facts set forth in the affidavit of , as having any legal existence. The mis-recitals and over-statements in the requisition and warrant, are not supported by oath, and cannot be received as evidence to deprive a citizen of his liberty, and transport [p. 138] him to a foreign state for trial. For these reasons, Smith must be discharged.
At the request of , counsel for Smith, it is proper to state, in justice to the present executive of the state of , , that it was admitted on the argument, that the warrant which originally issued upon the said requisition, was issued by his predecessor; that when Smith came to to surrender himself up upon that warrant, it was in the hands of the person to whom it had been issued at in this state; and that the present warrant, which is a copy of the former one, was issued at the request of Smith, to enable him to test its legality by writ of habeas corpus.
Let an order be entered that Smith be discharged from his arrest. [p. 139]