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UNITED STATES v. FLORES

decided: April 10, 1933.

UNITED STATES
v.
FLORES



APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo

Author: Stone

[ 289 U.S. Page 144]

 MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

By indictment found in the District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania, it was charged that appellee, a citizen of the United States, murdered another citizen of the United States upon the S.S. "Padnsay," an American vessel,

[ 289 U.S. Page 145]

     while at anchor in the Port of Matadi, in the Belgian Congo, a place subject to the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Belgium, and that appellee, after the commission of the crime, was first brought into the Port of Philadelphia, a place within the territorial jurisdiction of the District Court. By stipulation it was conceded, as though stated in a bill of particulars, that the "Padnsay," at the time of the offense charged, was unloading, being attached to the shore by cables, at a point two hundred and fifty miles inland from the mouth of the Congo River.

The District Court, following its earlier decision in United States ex rel. Maro v. Mathues, 21 F.2d 533, affirmed, 27 F.2d 518, sustained a demurrer to the indictment and discharged the prisoner on the ground that the court was without jurisdiction to try the offense charged. The case comes here by direct appeal under the Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1264, 18 U. S. C. § 682 and § 238 of the Judicial Code, as amended by Act of February 13, 1925, 28 U. S. C. § 345, the court below certifying that its decision was founded upon its construction of § 272 of the Criminal Code, 18 U. S. C. § 451.

Sections 273 and 275 of the Criminal Code, 18 U. S. C. §§ 452, 454, define murder and fix its punishment. Section 272,*fn1 upon the construction of which the court below rested its decision, makes punishable offenses defined by other sections of the Criminal Code, among other cases,

[ 289 U.S. Page 146]

     "when committed within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States and out of the jurisdiction of any particular state, on board any vessel belonging in whole or in part to the United States" or any of its nationals. And by § 41 of the Judicial Code, 28 U. S. C. § 102, venue to try offenses "committed upon the high seas or elsewhere out of the jurisdiction of any particular State or district," is "in the district where the offender is found or into which he is first brought." As the offense charged here was committed on board a vessel lying outside the territorial jurisdiction of a state, see Wynne v. United States, 217 U.S. 234; United States v. Rodgers, 150 U.S. 249, 265, and within that of a foreign sovereignty, the court below was without jurisdiction to try and punish the offense unless it was within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States.

Two questions are presented on this appeal, first, whether the extension of the judicial power of the federal government "to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction," by Art. III, § 2 of the Constitution confers on Congress power to define and punish offenses perpetrated by a citizen of the United States on board one of its merchant vessels lying in navigable waters within the territorial limits of another sovereignty; and second, whether Congress has exercised that power by the enactment of § 272 of the Criminal Code under which the indictment was found.

The court below thought, as appellee argues, that as § 8 of Art. I of the Constitution specifically granted to Congress the power "to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations," and "to make rules concerning captures on land and water," that provision must be regarded as a limitation on the general provision of § 2 of Art. III, that the ...


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