the exercise of its discretion may accept a plea of guilty in such a case, if it deems it advisable to do so; but whether a defendant has a right to insist on the acceptance of such a plea. The two questions are entirely distinct. It must be observed, however, that there are some expressions in the opinion in the Green case, which are broader than the precise ruling of the court, and which, if isolated from their context and read literally, would lead to the conclusion that the court lacks power to accept a plea of guilty in such a case.
In reading and analyzing a judicial opinion, we must always be guided by the admonition so well enunciated by Chief Justice Marshall in Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 399, 5 L. Ed. 257: 'It is a maxim, not to be disregarded, that general expressions, in every opinion, are to be taken in connection with the case in which those expressions are used. If they go beyond the case, they may be respected, but ought not to control the judgment in a subsequent suit, when the very point is presented for decision. The reason for this maxim is obvious. The question actually before the Court is investigated with care, and considered in its full extent. Other principles which may serve to illustrate it, are considered in their relation to the case decided, but their possible bearing on all other cases is seldom completely investigated.'
In the Green case, the question whether the Court has authority in the exercise of its discretion to accept a plea of guilty, as distinguished from the right of the defendant to insist on its being accepted, was not before the court and, therefore, the point was not decided.
The power of a court to accept a plea of guilty is traditional and fundamental. Its existence is necessary for the purpose of serving the practical ends of the administration of the criminal law. Consequently, it should require an unambiguous expression on the part of the Congress to withhold this authority in specified cases. There is nothing in the statute involved in this case that clearly indicates an intention on the part of the legislative body to deprive the courts of their inherent jurisdiction to accept pleas of guilty.
In construing the statute, it is necessary to bear in mind the elementary principle of statutory interpretation that all statutes must receive a sensible construction. Any interpretation leading to an absurd consequence or a futile result must be avoided. United States v. Kirby, 7 Wall. 482, 486, 19 L. Ed. 278; Rector etc. of Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 460-462, 12 S. Ct. 511, 36 L. Ed. 226.
If the statute were construed as depriving the court of jurisdiction to accept a plea of guilty to the charge of carnal knowledge, the court would still be at liberty to accept a plea to a lesser included offense, such as attempt to commit rape, assault with intent to commit rape or even simple assault. Pleas of this sort are frequently accepted in this court. It would seem unreasonable to hold that the court may not accept a plea of guilty to the greater offense of carnal knowledge, if this limitation can be avoided by an acceptance of a plea to a lesser included offense.
Defendants indicted for murder in the first degree frequently plead guilty to murder in the second degree, in order to escape the hazard of a death sentence. No distinction in principle and no difference in result is perceived between permitting a defendant charged with murder in the first degree to plead guilty to murder in the second degree, and allowing a defendant accused of rape or carnal knowledge to plead guilty to the indictment. In each instance, the defendant by this procedure escapes the possibility of being sentenced to death.
A somewhat similar provision is found in the Federal Kidnaping Act, which makes it a criminal offense knowingly to transport a kidnaped person in interstate or foreign commerce. This statute also provides that in certain cases, the defendant shall be punished by death if the verdict of the jury so recommends, U.S.C.A., Title 18 § 408(a).
The question whether, in spite of this provision, the Court may nevertheless accept a plea of guilty has been considered by the courts and answered in the affirmative. In Seadlund v. United States, 7 Cir., 97 F.2d 742, 748, the Court stated: 'The language employed, it seems to us, is plain and its meaning free from doubt. Congress, unquestionably, intended to place a limitation upon the right of the court to impose the death penalty in that before so doing, an affirmative recommendation must be made by a jury. Upon a plea of not guilty, in addition to the issue as to the defendant's guilt, there may be submitted the further question, in case the jury finds him guilty, as to whether the jury recommend the death penalty. On a plea of guilty, it is discretionary with the court to punish by imprisonment for such terms of years as the court, in its discretion, shall determine, but before the death penalty may be imposed, that question must be submitted to the jury. As to whether it should be so submitted is a matter in the discretion of the trial court. He may sentence to imprisonment in his discretion, submit to the jury for its recommendation on the question of the death penalty.' No reason appears for placing a different interpretation on parallel provisions in the local statute relating to rape and carnal knowledge and in the Federal statute relating to kidnaping.
The foregoing discussion leads the Court to the conclusion that while a defendant indicted on a charge of rape or carnal knowledge has no right to insist on the acceptance of a plea of guilty, the Court, nevertheless, in the exercise of its discretion, has the power to accept such a plea, if it deems it wise to do so.
The facts in the instant case justify the acceptance of the plea of guilty tendered by the defendant. Accordingly the plea of guilty is being accepted by the Court.