APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA.
MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the court.
The appellant has not ventured to give a specific name to this action. The appellee claims that it is not an application for a writ of habeas corpus, nor for writ of mandamus, (this word is used in the prayer of the petition,) but that it is "an ordinary action of which the appellant has no concern."
The purpose of the proceeding is to deliver from the custody of the sheriff of the parish of Jefferson, State of Louisiana, one Samuel Wright, who is under sentence of death for the crime of assault, with intent to commit rape, for which he was convicted in the twenty-first judicial district court for the parish of Jefferson.
The appellant's petition was filed in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and alleges that he appeared on behalf of Nathan Wright. If further alleges that Wright was convicted of criminal assault with intent to commit rape and sentenced to death, and that Marrero (appellee) as sheriff "proposes, under said sentence, and an order of execution lately received by him from Murphy J. Foster, governor, so called, of the State of Louisiana, to hang said Wright on February 9, 1900, until dead, and will do so unless restrained therefrom by this honorable court; . . . that said conviction was obtained and sentence passed without due process of law, in direct violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of these United States; that the grand jury that indicted Wright consisted of only twelve members, whilst the fundamental law of the State, the constitution of 1879, imperatively requires that the grand jury shall consist of sixteen members, and that the assent of at least thirteen of these members shall be secured for the presentation of a true bill;" and "that these fatal departures from an indispensable due
process of law arose from the very erroneous beliefs of the hon. jude of said district court and of Governor Foster, that a so-called constitution of 1898 is the fundamental law of the State, and not that of 1879; that they erred, and that the latter is the real and valid constitution of Louisiana, petitioner in proof presents the following counts and pleas."
There is a specification of reasons, under eight "counts and pleas," why the constitution of 1898 is not the constitution of the State. The reasons are all reducible to the general and ultimate one that the constitution of 1898 was not adopted in pursuance of the provisions of the constitution of 1879, and "hence act No. 52 of 1896, (an act of the legislature,) generally known as the constitutional convention law, goes far beyond the limits of legislative authority, is ultra vires and absolutely null and void, and everything done under it equally null and void."
It is also alleged that certain other acts, to wit, acts Nos. 89 and 13 of 1896, are unconstitutional, because they reduce the number of registered voters, and therefore are "not in any sense an expression of sovereignty, and therefore of no force, effect or validity." The particular reasons given are that the acts are bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, violate the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, take away suffrage without due process of law, make sweeping exemptions from additional qualifications of the suffrage based upon wealth and money, do not provide for ratification by the people of the State in compliance "with the provisions of the Federal Constitution exacting from every State of the Union a republican form of government."
The petition concludes as follows:
"Petitioner further shows in behalf of said Wright that the aforesaid insurrectionary, revolutionary, usurpative and unconstitutional proceedings compel him to go outside of the state courts, and to appeal to this hon. court for protection against an ordered extra-judicial murder, under the well-established maxim of constitutional law that state courts are not competent to pass upon the validity of the constitution under which
they themselves exist and from which they derive all their power.
"Wherefore, the above duly considered, petitioner prays for citation and service of petition upon the aforesaid Lucien H. Marrero, sheriff of the parish of Jefferson, State of Louisiana, commanding him to show cause, if any he has, why the said Nathan Wright, now in ...