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SAWYER v. UNITED STATES.

decided: April 30, 1906.

SAWYER
v.
UNITED STATES.



ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA.

Author: PECKHAM

[ 202 U.S. Page 157]

 MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

The first question to be noticed in this case arises by reason of these facts: When the case was called for trial the clerk proceeded to call the names of the jurors, and the record shows that:

[ 202 U.S. Page 158]

     "While the jury was being impaneled several jurors were called, and as each juror appeared he was told by the district attorney to stand at the foot of the panel, without any challenge on the part of the Government and without an opportunity given to defendants to accept, challenge for favor or cause, or to peremptorily challenge any and all of said jurors so stood aside.

"To each and to every action in this respect on the part of the Government the defendants promptly and in due time objected, but the court overruled the objections, saying the state practice would be followed, and there was no United States statute on the subject; to which ruling of the court the defendants, by their counsel, then and there duly excepted, and the exceptions were allowed. It appeared that neither the Government nor the defense had exhausted all their peremptory challenges when the jury was impaneled."

The inquiry is, whether the court had the power to permit such conditional challenge by the Government?

The origin of this practice is stated by Mr. Justice Field in delivering the opinion of the court in Hayes v. Missouri, 120 U.S. 68, 71. It is there said:

"Originally, by the common law, the Crown could challenge peremptorily without limitation as to number. By act of Parliament passed in the time of Edward the First, the right to challenge was restricted to challenges for cause. But, by a rule of court, the Crown was not obliged to show cause until the whole panel was called. Those not accepted on the call were directed to stand aside. If, when the panel was gone through, a full jury was obtained, it was taken for the trial. If, however, a full jury was not obtained, the Crown was required to show cause against the jurors who had been directed to stand aside; and, if no sufficient cause was shown, the jury was completed from them."

The question here involved was not directly before the court in that case, but the accuracy of the statement is not questioned. It is not disputed that the practice has prevailed in

[ 202 U.S. Page 159]

     the State of North Carolina ever since the foundation of the State, and it has also prevailed in South Carolina and Pennsylvania.

In 1790 Congress provided for granting certain peremptory challenges to the defendant (1 Stat. 119), but no peremptory challenge was allowed to the Government.

While the Government was thus situated in regard to peremptory challenges the case of United States v. Marchant, 12 Wheat. 480, came before the court. The question directly involved was whether persons jointly charged in the same indictment for a capital offense had a right by law to be tried separately without the consent of the prosecutor, and it was held that persons so jointly charged had not that right, but that such separate trial was a matter to be allowed in the discretion of the court. In the course of the opinion, however, which was delivered by Mr. Justice Story, it was stated as follows:

"But a still more direct conclusion against the right may be drawn from the admitted right of the Crown to challenge in criminal cases, and the practice under that right. We do not say that the same right belongs to any of the States of the Union; for there may be a diversity in this respect as to the local jurisprudence or practice. The inquiry here is, not as to what is the state prerogative, but, simply, what is the common law doctrine as to the point under consideration. Until the statute of 33 Edw. I, the Crown might challenge peremptorily any juror, without assigning any cause; but that statute took away that right, and narrowed the challenges of the Crown to those for cause shown. But the practice since this statute has uniformly been, and it is clearly settled, not to compel the Crown to show cause at the time of objection taken, but to put aside the juror until the whole panel is gone through. Hawkins, on this point, says (Pl. Cr. b. 2, ch. 43, s. 2, s. 3), 'if the King challenge a juror before the panel is perused, it is agreed that he need not show any cause of his challenge, till the whole panel be gone through, and it appears that there will not be a full jury without the person so challenged. And

[ 202 U.S. Page 160]

     if the defendant, in order to oblige the King to show cause, presently challenge, touts paravaile; yet it hath been adjudged, that the defendant shall be first put to show all his causes of challenge before the King need to show any.' And the learned author is fully borne out by the authorities which he cites, and the same rule has been recognized down to the present times.

"This acknowledged right of peremptory challenge existing in the Crown before the statute of 33 Edw. I, and the uniform practice which has prevailed since that statute, to allow a qualified and conditional exercise of the same right, if other sufficient jurors remained for the trial, demonstrate, as we think, that no such power of selecting his jury belongs, or was ever supposed to belong, by the common law, to the prisoner; and that, therefore, he could not demand, as matter of right, a separate trial to enable him to ...


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