Savin

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Savin by John Marshall Harlan
Syllabus
Court Documents
Opinion of the Court
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United States Supreme Court

131 U.S. 267

SAVIN

The appellant, claiming to be illegally imprisoned under color of the authority of the United States, presented to the circuit court of the United States for the Southern district of California his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The prayer for the writ was denied, and the petition was dismissed. This appeal brings up the judgment of the court for review.

It appears that on the 27th day of February, 1889, the district attorney stated to the district court of the United States for the Southern district of California that he had been informed that one of the witnesses for the government in the case of U.S. v. Heppolyte Goujon, then pending in that court, had been corruptly approached, and an effort made to intimidate him from testifying. The witness alleged to have been thus approached was on the same day examined under oath in open court, in the presence of the respondent, who was in the custody of the marshal. The evidence was taken down by a stenographer, designated by the court and acting under oath. As the result of that examination an order was made that the appellant be cited to show cause before the district court, at a specified hour, on the next day, why he should not be adjudged guilty of contempt. On the succeeding day, the citation having been duly served, the matter came on for hearing, the respondent being present in court, and represented by counsel. He demanded of the prosecution 'service of interrogatories.' That demand was denied by the court, and to that ruling he excepted. Witnesses having been examined on behalf of the government, and the respondent having testified in his own behalf, (but to what effect does not appear from the record,) and the matter having been submitted, the district court, upon the testimony taken down by the stenographer, entered the following order and judgment:

'Whereas, during the progress of the trial of the action of the United States of America v. H. Goujon, in this court, on the 27th day of February, 1889, one Bartolo Flores, a witness on the part of the government duly subpoenaed and in attendance upon the court, testified, in substance, that while in said attendance, on said 27th day of February, one Alejandro Savin, on two several occasions, once in the jury-room of said court, temporarily used for witnesses, and within a few feet of the court-room, and once in the hallway of said court building, immediately adjoining said court-room, did approach said witness, and in said jury-room did improperly endeavor to deter the said witness from testifying in behalf of the government in said cause, and in the said hallway he offered the said witness money not to testify against the defendant in said action of the United States v. Goujon; and whereas, upon such testimony of said Flores, this court then and there made an order directing the said Savin to show cause before this court, at 9:30 o'clock A. M., on the 28th day of February, 1889, at the court-room thereof, why he should not be adjudged guilty of a contempt of this court; and whereas, on said 28th day of February, the said Savin appeared with counsel in response to said order, whereupon the said matter was heard in open court, and witnesses for and against him were sworn, and their testimony given, and the same having been duly considered by the court, the court now finds the facts to be: That during the progress of the trial of the action of the United States of America v. H. Goujon, in this court, on the 27th day of February, 1889, one Bartolo Flores, a witness on behalf of the government, duly subpoenaed and in attendance upon the court, while in such attendance, on the said 27th day of February, was on two several occasions, once in the jury-room of said court, which was temporarily used for a witness-room, and which is located within less than seven feet of the court-room, and once in the hallway of said court building, immediately adjoining the court-room, approached by the respondent, Alejandro Savin, and said Savin did then and there, in said jury-room, unlawfully attempt and endeavor to deter said witness, Flores, from testifying for the government in the aforesaid action, and in said hallway the said Savin did at the time stated unlawfully offer the said witness, Flores, money not to testify against the defendant therein, the aforesaid Goujon; from which facts it is considered and adjudged by the court that the said respondent, Alejandro Savin, did thereby commit a contempt of this court, for which contempt it is by the court now ordered and adjudged that the said Alejandro Savin be imprisoned in the county jail of Los Angeles county, California, for the period of one year. The marshal will execute this judgment forthwith.

'Ross, District Judge.

'February 28, 1889.'

Pursuant to that order, and in conformity with a warrant, reciting that he had been convicted of a contempt of said court, the respondent was committed to jail. In his petition he claimed that the district court had no jurisdiction or legal authority to try and sentence him in the manner and form above stated, for these reasons: (1) The matters set out in the judgment do not constitute a contempt of court provided for by section 725 of the Revised Statutes of the United States. (2) The proceedings were insufficient to give the court jurisdiction to render judgment. (3) The judgment is not based or founded upon any proceedings in due course of law, and is, therefore, void.

J. A. Anderson, for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 270-272 intentionally omitted]

Sol. Gen. Jenks and Geo. J. Denis, Dist. Atty., for respondent.

Mr. Justice HARLAN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.

Notes[edit]

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).