Bird v. United States (180 U.S. 356)
Messrs. L. T. Michener, W. W. Dudley, and Malony & Cobb for plaintiff in error.
Assistant Attorney General Beck for defendant in error.
Statement by Mr. Justice Shiras:
At a term of the United States district court in and for the district of Alaska, Homer Bird, the plaintiff in error, was tried on a charge of having murdered one J. H. Hurlin on the 27th day of September, A. D. 1898. On December 6, 1899, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged in the indictment, and on December 13, 1899, a motion for a new trial having been overruled, a sentence of death by hanging on February 9, A. D. 1900, was pronounced. A bill of exceptions was settled and signed by the trial judge on February 8, 1900, and a writ of error from the Supreme Court of the United States was allowed. The evidence contained in the bill of exceptions shows that a party of five persons, composed of Homer Bird, J. H. Hurlin, Robert L. Patterson, Charles Scheffler, and Naomi Strong, sailed up the Yukon river, in the latter part of July, 1898, on an adventure in search of gold. They traveled on a small steam launch, towing a scow laden with an outfit of clothes and provisions sufficient to last them about two years. In the latter part of September, 1898, they reached a point on the river about 600 miles from St. Michaels, at the mouth of the Yukon, when they determined to go into winter quarters, and there began the construction of a cabin on the banks of the stream. On September 27, 1898, in a quarrel that had arisen about a partition of the supplies, Hurlin was shot and killed by Bird. At the trial in December, 1899, there were three witnesses who had been present at the time of the homicide, Scheffler, Strong and Bird, the accused. As the fact of the killing of Hurlin by Bird was not denied, the trial turned on the question whether the killing was malicious and wilful or was in self-defense.
Mr. Justice Shiras delivered the opinion of the court: