|Maxwell v. Dow
100 U.S. 1
[ Peckham ]
[ Harlan ]
Maxwell v. Dow
ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF UTAH
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, dissenting.
Under an information filed against him in one of the courts of the State of Utah, Maxwell, the plaintiff in error, a citizen of the United States, was convicted of the crime of robbery, and, having been tried by a jury consisting of eight persons, was found guilty and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary for the term of eighteen years.
He insists that his imprisonment is in violation of the Constitution of the United States in that he was proceeded against by information -- not by indictment or presentment of a grand [p606] jury -- and was tried for an infamous crime by a jury composed of less than twelve persons.
By its opinion and judgment just rendered, this court holds that neither the prosecution by information nor the trial by eight jurors was in violation of the Constitution of the United States.
Upon the first point, I do not care to say anything. For, in Hurtado v. California, 110 U.S. 516, this court held that a state enactment authorizing the prosecution by information for the crime of murder in the first degree -- the penalty for such crime being death -- was not in violation of the Constitution of the United States. The principles there announced have been reaffirmed in later cases. In the Hurtado case, I dissented from the opinion and judgment of the court and stated fully the reasons why, in my judgment, no civil tribunal or Court, Federal or state, could legally try a citizen of the United States for an infamous crime otherwise than on the indictment or presentment of a grand jury. I adhere to the views then expressed, but further discussion of the question decided seems unnecessary.
The remaining question in the present case is whether the trial of the accused by eight jurors is forbidden by the Constitution of the United States.
The Fourteenth Amendment, after declaring that all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside, provides that "no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States," nor "shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law."
What are the privileges and immunities of "citizens of the United States"? Without attempting to enumerate them, it ought to be deemed safe to say that such privileges and immunities embrace at least those expressly recognized by the Constitution of the United States and placed beyond the power of Congress to take away or impair.
When the Constitution was adopted by the Convention of [p607] 1787 and placed before the people for their acceptance or rejection, many wise statesmen whose patriotism no one then questioned or now questions earnestly objected to its acceptance upon the ground that it did not contain a Bill of Rights guarding the fundamental guarantees of life, liberty and property against the unwarranted exercise of power by the National Government. But the friends of the Constitution, believing that the failure to accept it would destroy all hope for permanent union among the people of the original States, and following the advice of Washington, who was the leader of the constitutional forces, met this objection by showing that, when the Constitution had been accepted by the requisite number of States, and thereby become the supreme law of the land, such amendments could be adopted as would relieve the apprehensions of those who deemed it necessary, by express provisions, to guard against the infringement by the agencies of the General Government of any of the essential rights of American freemen. This view prevailed, and the implied pledge thus given was carried out by the first Congress, which promptly adopted and submitted to the people of the several States the first ten amendments. These amendments have ever since been regarded as the National Bill of Rights.
Let us look at some of those amendments. It is declared by the First,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances;
by the Third,
no soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of var, but in a manner to be prescribed by law
by the Fourth,
the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized;
by the Fifth, no person shall
be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall he be compelled [p608] in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation;
by the Sixth,
in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence;
and by the Eighth,
excessive bail shall not be nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
It seems to me that the privileges and immunities enumerated in these amendments belong to every citizen of the United States. They were universally so regarded prior to the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. In order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity, the political community known as the People of the United States ordained and established the Constitution of the United States, and every member of that political community was a citizen of the United States. It was that community that adopted, in the mode prescribed by the Constitution, the first ten amendments, and what they had in view by so doing was to make it certain that the privileges and immunities therein specified -- the enjoyment of which, the fathers believed, were necessary in order to secure the blessings of liberty -- could never be impaired or destroyed by the National Government.
Now, the original Constitution declared that "the trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury." This was supplemented by the Sixth Amendment, declaring that, in all criminal prosecutions, the accused should enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime was committed. And [p609] we have held that the jury here referred to was a common law jury consisting of neither more or less than twelve persons, whose unanimous verdict was necessary to acquit or convict the accused; that a jury of less number was not admissible in any criminal trial in the District of Columbia or in a Territory of the United States, or in any prosecution of a criminal character in a court of the United States or in any court organized under the authority of the United States. Callan v. Wilson, 127 U.S. 540; Thompson v. Utah, 170 U.S. 343. We have often adjudged that the declaration in Magna Charta that the King would not pass upon any freeman, nor condemn him "but by the lawful judgment of his peers" referred to a jury of twelve persons.
It is not difficult to understand why the fathers intrenched the right of trial by jury in the supreme law of the land. They regarded the recognition and exercise of that right as vital to the protection of liberty against arbitrary power. Mr. Hallam, in his Constitutional History of England, after observing that liberty had been the slow fruit of ages, said that, as early as the reign of Henry VII, one of the essential checks upon royal power was that
the fact of guilt or innocence on a criminal charge was determined in a public court, and in the county where the offence was alleged to have occurred, by a jury of twelve men, from whose unanimous verdict no appeal could be made.
And it is an interesting fact that the first ordinance adopted by the Plymouth Colony in 1623 was one declaring, among other things, that "all criminal facts" should be tried "by the verdict of twelve honest men to be impanneled by authority, in form of a jurye upon their oaths." The value of that institution was recognized by the patriotic men of the Revolutionary period when, in the Declaration of Independence, they complained that the King of Great Britain had deprived the people of the Colonies in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury. Referring to the provisions of the Federal Constitution relating to the personal security of citizens of the United States, Kent says they
must be regarded as fundamental in every State, for the colonies were parties to the national declaration of rights in 1774, in which the trial by [p610] jury, and the other rights and liberties of English subjects were peremptorily claimed as their undoubted inheritance and birthright.
Upon this general subject, Mr. Justice Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution, has said:
It was under the consciousness of the full possession of the rights, liberties and immunities of British subjects that the colonists, in almost all the early legislation of their respective assemblies, insisted upon a declaratory act acknowledging and confirming them. And, for the most part, they thus succeeded in obtaining a real and effective Magna Charta of their liberties. The trial by jury in all cases, civil and criminal, was as firmly and universally established in the Colonies as in the mother country.
1 Story's Const. § 165. Again,the same eminent jurist says:
It seems hardly necessary in this place to expatiate upon the antiquity or importance of the trial by jury in criminal cases. It was from very early times insisted on by our ancestors in the parent country as the great bulwark of their civil and political liberties, and watched with an unceasing jealousy and solicitude. The right constitutes one of the fundamental articles of Magna Charta, in which it is declared, nullus homo capiatur, nec imprisonetur, aut exuletur, aut aliquo modo destruatur, &c.; nisi per legale judicium parium suorum, vel per legem terrae; no man shall be arrested, nor imprisoned, nor banished, nor deprived of life, etc., but by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. The judgment of his peers here alluded to, and commonly called, in the quaint language of former times, a trial per pais, or trial by the country, is the trial by a jury, who are called the peers of the party accused, being of the like condition and equality in the State. When our more immediate ancestors removed to America, they brought this privilege with them, as their birthright and inheritance, as a part of that admirable common law which had fenced round and interposed barriers on every side against the approaches of arbitrary power. It is now incorporated into all our state constitutions as a fundamental right, and the Constitution of the United States would have been justly obnoxious to the most conclusive objection if it had not recognized and confirmed it in the most solemn terms. The great object of a trial by jury [p611] in criminal cases is to guard against a spirit of oppression and tyranny on the part of rulers, and against a spirit of violence and vindictiveness on the part of the people. Indeed, it is often more important to guard against the latter than the former.
Story's Const. § 1779. Blackstone has said:
A celebrated French writer, who concludes that because Rome, Sparta and Carthage have lost their liberties, therefore those of England in time must perish, should have recollected that Rome, Sparta and Carthage, at the time when their liberties were lost, were strangers to the trial by jury.
2 Bl.Com. 379. In a recent American work on trial by jury, the author well says:
The English colonists settled here with a deep-rooted regard for this right. It had been, no doubt, to them in the mother country a valuable protection. They brought it with them and established it as one of their dearest privileges, and in every enumeration of their rights and immunities, it takes a conspicuous place.
Again, the same author:
Ever since Magna Charta, the right to a trial by jury has been esteemed a peculiarly dear and inestimable privilege by the English race, and whether, in a strictly historical view, the right was defined or secured by that instrument or not, it was nevertheless invariably appealed to and implicitly relied on as unalterably and inviolably securing the right among other valuable privileges guaranteed therein. During long centuries, when popular rights were overborne by prerogative or despotism, those who claimed and were denied the right to such a trial founded their demand on the guarantee of the Great Charter, and solemnly protested against its violation when the privilege was denied them, and whenever an invasion or violation of individual rights was threatened, the security afforded by this guarantee was relied on as an effectual safeguard either to repel the attack or nullify its effect.
Proffat on Jury Trials, §§ 81, 82. And this court has declared that
the trial by jury is justly dear to the American people. It has always been an object of deep interest and solicitude, and every encroachment upon it has been watched with great jealousy.
Paron v. Bedford, 3 Pet. 433, 446.
Notwithstanding this history of the incorporation into the [p612] Constitution of the United States of the provision relating to trial by jury, it is now adjudged that immunity from trial for crime except by a jury of twelve jurors is not an immunity belonging to citizens of the United States within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.
It does not solve the question before us to say that the first ten amendments had reference only to the powers of the National Government, and not to the powers of the States. For if, prior to the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, it was one of the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States that they should not be tried for crime in any court organized or existing under National authority except by a jury composed of twelve persons, how can it be that a citizen of the United States may be now tried in a state court for crime, particularly for an infamous crime, by eight jurors, when that amendment expressly declares that "no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States"? It does not meet the case to say that a trial by eight jurors is as much a trial by jury as if there were twelve jurors; for if a citizen charged with crime can be subjected to trial by a less number of jurors than that prescribed by the Constitution, the number may be reduced to three. Indeed, under the interpretation now given to the amendment, it will, I think, be impossible to escape the conclusion that a State may abolish trial by jury altogether in a criminal case, however grave the offence charged, and authorize the trial of a case of felony before a single judge. I cannot assent to this interpretation, because it is opposed to the plain words of the Constitution and defeats the manifest object of the Fourteenth Amendment.
I am of opinion that, under the original Constitution and the Sixth Amendment, it is one of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States that, when charged with crime, they shall be tried only by a jury composed of twelve persons; consequently, a state statute authorizing the trial by a jury of eight persons of a citizen of the United States, charged with crime, is void under the Fourteenth Amendment declaring that no State shall make or enforce any law that [p613] "shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."
I am also of opinion that the trial of the accused for the crime charged against him by a jury of eight persons was not consistent with the "due process of law" prescribed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Referring to the words in the Fifth Amendment that "no person hall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law," this court said in Murray's Lessee v. Hoboken, 18 How. 272, 276:
The Constitution contains no description of those processes which it was intended to allow or forbid. It does not even declare what principles are to be applied to ascertain whether it be due process. It was manifest that it was not left to the legislative power to enact any process which might be devised. The article is a restraint on the legislative, as well as on the executive and judicial, powers of the Government, and cannot be so construed as to leave Congress free to make any process "due process of law" by its mere will. To what principles are we to resort to ascertain whether this process enacted by Congress is due process? To this the answer must be two-fold. We must examine the Constitution itself to see whether this process be in conflict with any of its provisions. If not found to be so, we must look to those settled usages and modes of proceeding existing in the common and statute law of England before the emigration of our ancestors, and which are shown not to have been unsuited to their civil and political condition by having been acted on by them after the settlement of this country.
No one, I think, can produce any authority to show that, according to the "settled usages and modes of proceeding existing in the common and statute law of England before the emigration of our ancestors," the trial of one accused of felony otherwise than by a jury of twelve, or wholly without a jury, was consistent with "due process of law." If the original Constitution had not contained a specific prohibition of trials for crime otherwise than by a jury, the requirement of due process of law in the Fifth Amendment would have stood in the way of any act of Congress authorizing criminal trials in the [p614] Federal courts in any mode except by a common law jury. When, therefore, the Fourteenth Amendment forbade the deprivation by any State of life, liberty or property without use process of law, the intention was to prevent any State from infringing the guarantees for the protection of life and liberty that had already been guarded against infringement by the National Government.
This interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment finds support in some of the decisions of this court. In addition to the clause forbidding the deprivation of property "without de process of law," there is in the Fifth Amendment a clause specifically declaring "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." The Fourteenth Amendment does not, in terms, refer to the taking of private property for public use, yet we have held that the requirement of "due process of law" in that amendment forbids the taking of private property for public use without making or securing just compensation. Chicago, Burlington &c. Railroad v. Chicago, 166 U.S. 226, 233, 241; Norwood v. Baker, 172 U.S. 269, 277.
If, then, the "due process of law" required by the Fourteenth Amendment does not allow a State to take private property without just compensation, but does allow the life or liberty of the citizen to be taken in a mode that is repugnant to the settled usages and the modes of proceeding authorized at the time the Constitution was adopted and which was expressly forbidden in the National Bill of Rights, it would seem that the protection of private property is of more consequence than the protection of the life and liberty of the citizen.
If the court had not ruled otherwise, I should have thought it indisputable that, when by the Fourteenth Amendment it was declared that no State should make or enforce any law abridging the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, the people of the United States put upon the States the same restrictions that had been imposed upon the National Government in respect as well of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States as of [p615] the protection of the fundamental rights of life, liberty and property.
The decision today rendered is very far-reaching in its consequences. I take it no one doubts that the great men who laid the foundations of our government regarded the preservation of the privileges and immunities specified in the first ten amendments as vital to the personal security of American citizens. To say of any people that they do not enjoy those privileges and immunities is to say that they do not enjoy real freedom. But suppose a State should prohibit the free exercise of religion; or abridge the freedom of speech or of the press; or forbid its people from peaceably assembling to petition the government for a redress of grievances; or authorize soldiers in time of peace to be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner; or permit the persons, houses, papers and effects of the citizen to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures under warrants not issued upon probable cause nor supported by oath or affirmation, nor describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized; or allow a person to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; or compel the accused to be a witness against himself; or deny to the accused the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, or to have the assistance of counsel; or require excessive bail; or inflict cruel and unusual punishment. These or any of these things being done by a State, this court, according to the reasoning and legal effect of the opinion just delivered, would be bound to say that the privileges and immunities specified were not privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that citizens of the United States affected by the action of the State could not invoke the protection of that amendment or of any other provision of the National Constitution. Suppose the State of Utah should amend its constitution and make the Mormon religion the established religion of the State, to be supported by taxation on all the people of Utah. Could its right to do [p616] so, as far as the Constitution of the United States is concerned, be gainsayed under the principles of the opinion just delivered? If such an amendment were alleged to be invalid under the National Constitution, could not the opinion herein be cited as showing that the right to the free exercise of religion was not a privilege of a "citizen of the United States" within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment? Suppose, again, a State should prescribe as a punishment for crime burning at the stake or putting out the eyes of the accused. Would this court have any alternative under the decision just rendered but to say that the immunity from cruel and unusual punishments recognized in the Eighth Amendment as belonging to every citizen of the United States was not an immunity of a citizen within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, and was not protected by that amendment against impairment by the State? The privileges and immunities specified in the first ten amendments as belonging to the people of the United States are equally protected by the Constitution. No judicial tribunal has authority to say that some of them may be abridged by the States, while others may not be abridged. If a State can take from the citizen charged with crime the right to be tried by a jury of twelve persons, it can, so far as the Constitution of the United States is concerned, take away the remaining privileges and immunities specified in the National Bill of Rights. There is no middle position, unless it be assumed to be one of the functions of the judiciary by an interpretation of the Constitution to mitigate or defeat what its members may deem the erroneous or unwise action of the people in adopting the Fourteenth Amendment. The court cannot properly say that the Constitution of the United States does not protect the citizen when charged with crime in a state court against trial otherwise than by a jury of twelve persons, but does protect him against cruel and unusual punishment, or against being put twice in jeopardy of life or limb for the same offence, or against being compelled to testify against himself in a criminal prosecution, or in freedom of speech or in the free exercise of religion. The right to be tried when charged with crime by a jury of twelve persons [p617] is placed by the Constitution upon the same basis as the other rights specified in the first ten amendments. And while those amendments originally limited only the powers of the National Government in respect of the privileges and immunities specified therein, since the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, those privileges and immunities are, in my opinion, also guarded against infringement by the States.
If it be said that there need be no apprehension that any State will strike down the guarantees of life and liberty which are found in the National Bill of Rights, the answer is that the plaintiff in error is now in the penitentiary of Utah as the result of a mode of trial that would not have been tolerated in England at the time American independence was achieved, nor even now, and would have caused the rejection of the Constitution by every one of the original States if it had been sanctioned by any provision in that instrument when it was laid before the people for acceptance or rejection. Liberty, it has been well said, depends not so much upon the absence of actual oppression as on the existence of constitutional checks upon the power to oppress. These checks should not be destroyed or impaired by judicial decisions. On the contrary, speaking by Mr. Justice Bradley, we have declared in Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 636, that "it is the duty of the courts to be watchful for the constitutional rights of the citizen." If some of the guarantees of life, liberty and property which at the time of the adoption of the National Constitution were regarded as fundamental and as absolutely essential to the enjoyment of freedom have, in the judgment of some, ceased to be of practical value, it is for the people of the United States so to declare by an amendment of that instrument. But, if I do not wholly misapprehend the scope aud legal effect of the present decision, the Constitution of the United States does not stand in the way of any State striking down guarantees of life and liberty that English-speaking people have for centuries regarded as vital to personal security, and which the men of the Revolutionary period universally claimed as the birthright of freemen.
I dissent from the opinion and judgment of the court.