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Opinion of the Court.
are bound to receive the law from the court, and to be guided by its instructions, it by no means follows that they are to abdicate their common sense, or to adopt any different processes of reasoning from those which guide them in the most important matters which concern themselves. Their sound common sense brought to bear upon the consideration of testimony, and in obedience to the rules laid down by the court, is the most valuable feature of the jury system and has done more to preserve its popularity than any apprehension that a bench of judges will wilfully misuse their power. To construe these instructions as authorizing the jury to depart from the rules of evidence and to decide the case upon abstract notions of their own, or from facts gathered outside of the testimony, is hypercritical. They were simply told to come to a conclusion upon the facts that had been proven, and to apply to those facts the same rules of good sense that they would apply to any other subject that came under their consideration and demanded their judgment. In these remarks the court gave a just and accurate definition of their functions. It certainly would have been error to have told them to apply to the facts proven any other rules than those which their good common sense dictated, or to set up any other standard of judgment than that which influenced them in the ordinary business of life.
9. Error is also assigned to the following instruction of the court, upon the subject of obscene publications:
“Now, what is (are) obscene, lascivious, lewd or indecent publications is largely a question of your own conscience and your own opinion; but it must come before it can be said of such literature or publication -- it must come up to this point: that it must be calculated with the ordinary reader to deprave him, deprave his morals, or lead to impure purposes.
It is your duty to ascertain in the first place if they are calculated to deprave the morals; if they are calculated to lower that standard which we regard as essential to civilization; if they are calculated to excite those feelings which, in their proper field, are all right, but which, transcending the limits of that proper field, play most of the mischief in the world."
Opinion of the Court.
The construction placed by counsel upon this is, that it practically directed the jury that obscene literature was such as tended to deprave the morals of the public in any way whatever, whereas the true test of what constitutes obscene literature is that which tends to deprave the morals in one way only, namely, by exciting sensual desires and lascivious thoughts. It is not, however, the charge given by the court that was too broad, but the construction put upon it by counsel. The alleged obscene and indecent matter consisted of advertisements by women, soliciting or offering inducements for the visits of men, usually “refined gentlemen,” to their rooms, sometimes under the disguise of “Baths” and “Massage," and oftener for the mere purpose of acquaintance. It was in this connection that the court charged the jury that, if the publications were such as were calculated to deprave the morals, they were within the statute. There could have been no possible misapprehension on their part as to what was meant. There was no question as to depraving the morals in any other direction than that of impure, sexual relations. The words were used by the court in their ordinary signification, and were made more definite by the context, and by the character of the publications which had been put in evidence. The court left to the jury to say whether it was within the statute, and whether persons of ordinary intelligence would have any difficulty in divining the intention of the advertiser. We have no doubt that the finding of the jury was correct upon this point.
10. Error is also assigned to the action of the court in refusing to instruct the jury that the presumption of innocence was stronger than the presumption that the government employés who delivered the newspapers to Mr. Montgomery in the Chicago post office building obtained such papers from the mails ; or than the presumption that the person who deposited them in the box in the St. Louis post office building from which box the witness McAfee took the papers obtained them from the mails. The court had already charged the jury “that until the government proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly caused to be deposited such a publication in the
Opinion of the Court.
mails, the presumption of innocence stands between any penalty that the court might inflict, or any verdict that you might pronounce, and the defendant. That presumption of innocence is only overcome when these facts I have named as the gist of the offence are, in your judgment, established beyond a reasonable doubt." The court further instructed the jury that “the presumption of innocence means that it is a presumption of the law that the defendant did not deposit, or cause to be deposited, in the post office for mailing, any of the newspapers admitted in evidence, and this presumption should continue and prevail in the minds of the jury in such a way as to cause them to find the defendant not guilty, unless, from all the evidence in the case, beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury are convinced that the newspapers, or some of the newspapers, admitted in evidence, were deposited or caused to be deposited in the post office for mailing by the defendant.” The court made a similar charge with reference to the knowledge of the defendant that the publications contained indecent matters.
The position of the defendant in this connection is that the presumption of the defendant's innocence in a criminal case is stronger than any presumption, except the presumption of the defendant's sanity, and the presumption of knowledge of the law, and that he was entitled to a direct charge that the presumption of the defendant's innocence was stronger than the presumption that the messengers, who deposited these papers in their proper boxes, took them from the mails. If it were broadly true that the presumption of innocence overrides every other presumption, except those of sanity and knowledge of the law, it would be impossible to convict in any case upon circumstantial evidence, since the gist of such evidence is that certain facts may be inferred or presumed from proof of other facts. Thus, if property recently stolen be found in the possession of a certain person, it may be presumed that he stole it, and such presumption is sufficient to authorize the jury to convict, notwithstanding the presumption of his innocence. So, if a person be stabbed to death, and another, who was last seen in his company, were arrested near the spot with a
Opinion of the Court.
bloody dagger in his possession, it would raise, in the absence of explanatory evidence, a presumption of fact that he had killed him. So, if it were shown that the shoes of an accused person were of peculiar size or shape, and footmarks were found in the mud or snow of corresponding size or shape, it would raise a presumption, more or less strong according to the circumstances, that those marks had been made by the feet of the accused person.
It is true that it is stated in some of the authorities that where there are conflicting presumptions, the presumption of innocence will prevail against the presumption of the continuance of life, the presumption of the continuance of things generally, the presumption of marriage and the presumption of chastity. But this is said with reference to a class of presumptions which prevail independently of proof to rebut the presumption of innocence, or what may be termed abstract presumptions. Thus, in prosecutions for seduction, or for enticing an unmarried female to a house of ill-fame, it is necessary to aver and prove affirmatively the chastity of the female, notwithstanding the general presumption in favor of her chastity, since this general presumption is overridden by the presumption of the innocence of the defendant. People v. Roderigas, 49 California, 9; Commonwealth v. Whittaker, 131 Mass. 224; West v. State, 1 Wisconsin, 209; Zabriskie v. State, 43 N. J. Law, 640; 1 Greenl. Ev. $ 35. This rule, however, is confined to cases where proof of the facts raising the presumption has no tendency to establish the guilt of the defendant, and has no application where such proof constitutes a link in the chain of evidence against him.
In such cases as the one under consideration, it is not so much a question of comparative presumptions, one against the other, as one of the weight of evidence to prove a certain fact, namely that these papers were taken from the mails. It was a question for the jury to say whether the facts proven in this connection satisfied them beyond a reasonable doubt, and notwithstanding the presumption of innocence, that these papers were taken from the mails; and the abstract instruction requested I would only have tended to confuse them, since, if literally followed, it would have compelled a verdict of acquittal.
Statement of the Case.
Upon a careful consideration of the record in this case, we are of opinion that there was no error of which the defendant was justly entitled to complain, and the judgment of the court below is, therefore,
UNITED STATES v. MCMILLAN.
APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE TERRITORY OF UTAH.
No. 164. Argued January 21, 1897. – Decided February 15, 1897.
The clerk of a district court of a Territory is bound to account to the
United States for fees received by him from private parties in civil
actions, and from the Territory, on account of territorial business. The clerk of a district court of a Territory is not bound to account to
the United States for sums received for his services in naturalization proceedings.
This was an action brought December 31, 1892, in the Third Judicial District Court of the Territory of Utah, by the United States against Henry G. McMillan, clerk of that court, and the sureties on his official bond, to recover the amount of certain fees received by him and not accounted for.
The complaint contained two counts, the first of which alleged that “between January 8 and December 31, 1889, inclusive, the said Henry G. McMillan, while clerk as aforesaid, and as such, earned, collected and received from different sources, as the fees and emoluments of his said office, $7458.70, of which sum $988.90 was earned and received in United States business; $3776.00 for declarations of intention and naturalizations; and $2693.80 from private persons in civil litigation, and from the Territory of Utah, on account of territorial business”; that he was entitled to retain, of the moneys aforesaid, the sum of $1984.93 as his personal compensation, and the further sum of $1744.05 as the reasonable and necessary expenses of his office, as allowed by the Attor