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UNITED STATES v. EVANS.

decided: April 19, 1909.

UNITED STATES
v.
EVANS.



CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

Author: Fuller

[ 213 U.S. Page 299]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER delivered the opinion of the court.

Appellees were tried under an indictment for murder in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia on February 1, 1907, and found not guilty. The United States appealed to the Court of Appeals of the District, and assigned error on exceptions taken during the trial to the exclusion of certain evidence. This right to appeal was claimed under § 935 of the code, which reads as follows:

"In all criminal prosecutions the United States or the District of Columbia, as the case may be, shall have the same right of appeal as is given to the defendant, including the right to a bill of exceptions; provided, that if on such appeal it shall be found that there was error in the rulings of the court during the trial, a verdict in favor of the defendant shall not be set aside."

The appeal was dismissed for want of jurisdiction, and the case brought here on certiorari.

The case of United States v. Sanges, 144 U.S. 310, reiterated the then well-settled rule that the right of review in criminal cases was limited to review at the instance of the defendant after a decision in favor of the Government. United States v. Dickinson, ante, p. 92.

In United States v. Evans, 28 App. D.C. 264, under § 935 of the code, the right was exercised without question in a case where an indictment had been set aside on demurrer, and Chief Justice Shepard, in delivering the opinion of the court in this case (30 App. D.C. 58), said:

"It may be assumed also that such a writ of error would lie to review a judgment arresting a judgment of conviction for the insufficiency of the indictment, or one sustaining a special plea in bar, when the defendant has not been put in jeopardy."

But the Chief Justice further said that it was contended by appellants that a writ of error lies also "upon a judgment where there has been a verdict of not guilty, not, however, to obtain

[ 213 U.S. Page 300]

     a reversal of that judgment, but to obtain an opinion upon exceptions taken at the trial that may serve as a rule of observance in cases that may hereafter arise."

But this contention was rejected by the court in view of the objectionable consequences that would result from such an exercise of jurisdiction. "The appellee in such a case, having been freed from further prosecution by the verdict in his favor, has no interest in the question that may be determined in the proceedings on appeal and may not even appear. Nor can his appearance be enforced. Without opposing argument, which is so important to the attainment of a correct conclusion, the court is called upon to lay down rules that may be of vital interest to persons who may hereafter be brought to trial. All such persons are entitled to be heard on all questions affecting their rights, and it is a harsh rule that would bind them by decisions made in what are practically 'moot' cases, where opposing views have not been presented."

It was in the light of these considerations that the act of Congress of March 2, 1907, 34 Stat. 1246, c. 2654, was subjected to the limitations therein contained. United States v. Keitel, 211 ...


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